Look at you, Seattle; you’re a damn mess right now. Bertha is stuck underground like a boy in a well, you’re drenched in rain, riddled with construction, and now we hear that the Alaskan Way Viaduct is in even worse shape than previously imagined. How can you live like this?
According to a new inspection of the viaduct, more cracks have begun forming. We’ve got cracks in the vertical columns, we’ve got cracks in the horizontal girders, and we’ve got cracks in the supports. Do we have cracks in the upper deck? You’re damn right we have cracks in the upper deck! Oh, but we don’t just have new cracks, no sir, some of our old cracks have been getting bigger, because that’s just what they do. Who are you to hold them back? No crack stays dormant, though the one in my windshield seems to be holding up pretty well (my car is a deathtrap!).
You see, the problem with cracks growing is that they eventually find each other and wreak havoc. You need to keep ‘em separated, like that old song by The Offspring says (this reference just made me sick). What’s scary is that at the moment we have what you would call a bad case of seismic vulnerability. Of course, technically speaking, we’re all seismically vulnerable (especially you with your flesh and bones), but since the viaduct has no ability to run to shelter and is filled with ambitious cracks, it’s really vulnerable.
As of the most recent reports, the viaduct supposedly has a 1-in-10 chance of collapsing as the result of an earthquake in the next 10 years. If I read that logic correctly, it means that of the 10 earthquakes we’re going to have in the next 10 years, only one of them will cause the viaduct to collapse. Them’s good odds! The viaduct is actually pretty strong when you look at it that way.
A phrase that keeps popping up is that we’re in a race against time. Races against time are never a good thing, and don’t usually turn out well, mainly because time can’t lose. It’s time. Time has been here since the beginning, and has seen all comers and goers. You think we have a chance? If time were to let us win, the entire balance of nature would be thrown off. Time can’t have that. Besides, we’re not really racing against time, we’re racing against our previous mistakes. Don’t blame that on time.
We have a Silly Putty viaduct that naturally wants to return to the ground like any object in the air, but we can’t tear it down until a broken billion-dollar drill finishes drilling a hole. This is like an extremely boring version of the movie “Speed.”
I know that there’s some sort of connection between finishing the tunnel and tearing down the viaduct. Would it really be so bad to do it early? Is it like cutting the turkey on Thanksgiving before every relative has arrived? Because sometimes you can’t wait anymore, sometimes you’ve got to cut that turkey. The kids are hungry, you know? I don’t understand what I just wrote either.
The primal fear is that an earthquake on par with Nisqually will shake the viaduct to the ground, but it’s in such rough shape at the moment that a car with bad ball joints could set it off (bad ball joints cause vibrations). The question is this: who will be the lucky car? Who will pull that last Jenga piece out? It’s just like being the millionth customer at a grocery store (so many metaphors!), except instead of a gift certificate, you win death and destruction. Perhaps if we all drive very smoothly, never change lanes or hit the break too suddenly, we just might survive.
In any case, I’m not too worried about it. The recently released artist’s rendering of proposed waterfront looks clean and sunny and completely unrealistic, as all previous renderings do. If we could somehow transport the collective consciousness of Seattle into the happy, Matrix-like rendering right before the viaduct collapses and destroys the city, everything will turn out alright. We simply need to invent the technology to do so. That was supposed to be the “hope” part.