Imagine Tacoma – View Stimulus

One of the ways to increase the economic vitality of a downtown is to increase the traffic within it (stopping in for that cup of coffee in the city before heading off on the commute – or stopping in for the drink, etc… on the way home). So imagine restoring the historic axial view North up Pacific Avenue and visually connecting the Northend of Downtown to Commencement Bay.

No more Stadium Way off-ramp: After the wrecking ball work is done, the Northern visual terminus of Pacific Avenue is no longer blocked by a collection of concrete off-ramp spaghetti (i.e. it allows for Pacific Avenue’s ‘chi’ to be set free). Yes, this is a major inconvenience for those heading to/fro the Northend – but maybe using the Downtown exit/entrances will entice the vehicle occupants to become a pedestrian and frequent the downtown merchants on a regular basis (and thus more downtown merchants spring-up because of the increased foot traffic).

Dock Street Connection: With the elimination of the off-ramp, the connection of Schuster Parkway and I-705 can have a much greater clarity (i.e. reducing the NASCAR merging confrontations) and finally afford a proper ‘exit ramp’ to Dock Street and the Thea Foss Waterway.

With the increased traffic through Downtown, and the restoration of view at the Northern end of the City, maybe this is can be an economic stimulus through infrastructure deconstruction and historic view restoration(?).

Previous related Imagine Tacoma columns:

Streetscape Fascism

Tear It Down Take 2

My Favorites So Far

Downtown Gateway

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Yes! Eliminate I-705 west of the new 21st street bridge and make those streets connect and turn into downtown streets.  Connect the Foss Waterway there with new blocks of buildings where the freeway was and maybe have the perfect place to put a city mall with a view, enhanced (see “more people”)waterfront walk with restraunts, ect.  It’d be “value added” for the Foss condos that already exist there.  If I-705 were gone, you could more easily ave cable cars going up the hills in town too.

March 11, 2009 at 4:09 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’m not sure this is a good idea. Pacific Ave is already a nightmare to drive down. The drawing looks good, but fails to show the bumper to bumper traffic. I often use 705 to 21st street to get to my shop at 25th, so I can bypass what is easily a long start and stop commute. I do quite a bit of business in downtown and I use the main post office and my bank is on the corner of 11th and Pacific. Parking is poor, and if I wanted to get into downtown why would I park at the transit lot just to take light rail to 9th and Pacific? I’d get off at the UW to have a cup of coffee or a drink.

Sorry, but this is a well intentioned idea but a non-starter.

March 11, 2009 at 6:02 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Like the view, hate what will happen.

You see, I am one of those illustrious Northenders, and I use the Stadium Wy ramp 2x daily to get to work in the Port. No ramp there has 2 effects on yours truly, and I’m not exactly unique in this regard.

You see, you have to present people with a reason to go downtown. I don’t work there, so I go downtown for pleasure and business (bank and post office). When I go to work at 5:30 AM, there is nothing open. Plus it’s butt-ass early. Why would I want to drive through downtown when I can barely make it to work on time as it is?

And on the way home, I’m tired. I spent 12 hrs (that’s right, we work 12 hr shifts) working hard, and I don’t want to get coffee or deal with the traffic at 6pm. I want to go home, as do most people getting off work. I tend to go downtown on my days off, not during the working week.

I’m all for redesigning the ramp for less visual impact, I just don’t want it torn out.

And on that note, let’s take a play from the Book of Seattle. Just build a tunnel from 21st to Stadium HS.

Why not have our own hole to throw money down? The Governor will go out of her way to make it happen!

March 11, 2009 at 8:35 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Carla A. Gramlich

I also see some plus for bicycles/ped traffic.  I would love that Stadium Way, had bicycle lanes and sidewalks.  Here is a street that has some incredible views and is used for traffic to zoom up/down to access I705.  Also, we lost some open space because the trails and park had to be blocked off.  If it was accessible, I believe these spaces could be reopened and used.

March 11, 2009 at 9:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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J. Cote

Very good point, <span class=“caps”>TOT</span>. The reason that I-705 was built in the first place was so that commuters could bypass the downtown core and the stop and go traffic of Pac. Ave.

Want people to go downtown??? Give them a reason to. Shopping with accessible parking, prices that are competitive and not jacked up in order to cover the ridiculous rents, a safe <span class=“caps”>FEELING</span> environment, etc.

The only occasions in which I go Downtown are for one of my son’s <span class=“caps”>SOTA</span> events or to pick him up or drop him off.

There are some wonderful shops Downtown. I’m disabled and can’t walk up and down hills to get to them. Parking, disabled or otherwise, is limited. Give us reasons to go Downtown and we’ll go. Keep giving us reasons to avoid Downtown…

March 11, 2009 at 9:27 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

Death to the off ramps!

March 11, 2009 at 10:22 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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David, you rebel! Or was it revel?

I put the 705 in the top 5 of Tacoma’s Greatest Blunders.

You are certainly creating a lot of work for Tacoma. Keep it up!

March 11, 2009 at 10:33 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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crenshaw sepulveda

I thought the thinking around Tacoma was that water view should only be available to the wealthy.  This allows the poor to see too much of the water for free. That can’t be good for the property values along the Esplanade.

March 11, 2009 at 11:31 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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If you took out the ramps at the end of Pacific Ave, wouldn’t you just have a view of the grain elevators and rail lines?

March 12, 2009 at 8:18 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Morgan@7:  Picking the Top Five of Tacoma’s Greatest Blunders would be more difficult than picking Top Chef.  It could be its own reality show.

March 12, 2009 at 10:20 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

Frizzlebee@9:  No, the grain elevator is off to the left against the bank and screened with existing vegetation (a bit of the new canopy would be visible though).  As for the train tracks, they are over 70 feet below the elevation of Pacific so they are out of view play; however, ships waiting in Commencment Bay would be visible.

Morgan@7:  That is ‘Revel-ER’

March 12, 2009 at 10:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I don’t get it is this really going to happen or is this someone’s daydream?

March 12, 2009 at 5:43 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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J. Cote

mothrapod@12: daydream, pipedream, nightmare, depends upon which side of the fence you ride.

Mr. Boe is an extremely talented man who has a vision of what Tacoma might have been, should have been or could have been. Others have different views, yet can’t express them nearly as well as he.

Personally, I think that every one of his ideas are wonderful and insightful. Unfortunately, most come about 120 years too late to make them happen. Like this one, they’re just not going to happen, but it’s fun to think: “what it?”.

March 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Given the topography, I don’t think you’d see the water until you’ve reached South 7th and Pac Ave.

But instead of speculating, why don’t we hop in the way back machine and see what Pac Ave without I-705 looked like:

From 17th & Pac Ave, circa 1939

From what looks like 9th & Pac Ave, circa 1920-something. Too bad it looks south :(

A post card! But it gives you the idea, even if slightly romanticized.

March 13, 2009 at 12:01 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

More postcards!

So, while none of these explicitly shows the view David Boe proposes will come about, it does demonstrate 3 things:

1) Where would Pac Ave go? Down 150’ to the railroad tracks? On a another viaduct into Stadium Wy? Dead end?

2) Most things of interest on Pac Ave are from 11th down south through the <span class=“caps”>UWT</span> campus… too far to even see said overpasses unless you’re Eagle Eye Anderson.

3) Is tearing down an entire terminus of a freeway worth 2 blocks of views?

My suggestion:

It is not economical nor practical to tear it down/. As I have said in the past, this is a Federal highway… not an easy task to get Uncle Sam to tear down what we begged to be built 30 years ago. That being said, why not do one of two possible solutions:

a) take out part of the turn lane, create a median and plant at that end of Pac Ave some tall evergreen trees. It’s green and cost-effective. I know we should not use trees to compensate for poor design, but done right it can hide the concrete.

b) since we have an open checkbook from Uncle Sam, then why not spend some $$$ to minimize the ramp’s visual impact by rebuilding the ramp? Instead of a 90° turn and a steep inclination as we have now, why not have it continue along the main trajectory and slowly rise up to Stadium Wy at a very shallow angle… merging somewhere near 505 Broadway?

March 13, 2009 at 12:20 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

Ok, sorry for 3x posts, but doing more than 4 pics/post will trigger the spam filter.

I misspoke and forgot that Pac Ave goes into Schuster, not a dead end. My bad.

Now for the proposal I had above about replacing the ramp. If it’s stretched out far enough and at a shallow enough grade, it most likely could be made to be nearly unnoticeable until you get to right about where Exit 133 has it’s offices (sorry, guys).

<span class=“caps”>BIG</span>, hi-res version here

March 13, 2009 at 12:34 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Koch

I agree that there will be many problems for a large number of people if we were to simply remove the off-ramps. I also think David’s ideas would benefit Tacoma a great deal. There’s definitely a way to have benefit all parties.

I like that Thorax is immediately coming up with more options. I don’t completely agree with his drawing, but he’s on the right track.

Perhaps also, we could find ways to streamline a path through Tacoma Ave or Yakama that prioritizes commuters coming through from Northern Tacoma trying to get to the Freeway. I personally think that direction would be best for the Downtown area because then we <span class=“caps”>COULD</span> remove the downtown on/off-ramps. How would that work? How can we make that area better? Someone want to come up with some street maps with proper, high-traffic avenues going from North Tacoma to 705 by way of TacomaAve/Yakama/other and 21st/15th/other (or something similar)?

Maybe something as simple as finally updating our stoplight timing system would alleviate much of the traffic flow problems.

March 13, 2009 at 9:30 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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RR Anderson

the best thing ever is David Boe + TO’T tug-a-war freestyle bebop. 

That said, why more ramps?  I would like to see more jumps in our highway system. 

I would start driving again if I could jump my little merc tracer once in awhile.

March 13, 2009 at 10:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thorax O'Tool

the best thing ever is David Boe + TO’T tug-a-war freestyle bebop.

Imagine Tacoma if David Boe and I joined forces in some sort of Voltron-style Uber-Visionary Mecha.

We could have Utopia…

March 13, 2009 at 5:07 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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John Sherman

Maybe, just like Point Ruston and its public-private partnership for Ruston tunnel bypass roadway construction; it follows, the same private-public funding could be done right here with all these good ideas presented; for example, the Tacoma downtown business assoications could fund these improvements using little- to no-Taxpayers money to make all these ideas into constructed realty and bring Tacoma downtown new visual benefit, and just maybe with all these private roadways and transportation improvements completed and done with private money; therefore downtown could put tolls on all roadways entering the Tacoma downtown area to recover their completed private-money improvements investments. A real win for all Tacoma ‘Taxpayers’ today and tomorrow because private investment would do what it determines it needs to improve downtown areas; therefore more people will just visit downtown to see how this private construction project is progressing absent ‘Taxpayers’ help.

See Jason Hagey, Local, “Tacoma OKs funds for Ruston Way”, 03/11/09, The News Tribune, (“Council members approved a resolution allowing for the creation of a public-private local improvement district that will give the project access to $10 million from publicly issued bonds. . . .”), available at


just to understand how this concept works and the downtown associations could begin funding these new ideas Monday; since what is good for Ruston Way should also be good for downtown Tacoma transportation roadway improvements that benefit downtown and will cause more traffic to clog the streets of downtown as vehicles pass-on-through to the other side of downtown Tacoma.

March 14, 2009 at 4:17 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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John Sherman

All these old photos about Tacoma downtown reminds me; it follows, before anybody starts this new downtown people moving ability into- and out of-downtown it is good to review just a little past downtowns historical facts and reasons why things were- or not-done and why; therefore I would suggest everybody read or reread:

“Downtown: Its Rise and Fall, 1880-1950”

By Robert M. Fogelson

Edition: illustrated

Published by Yale University Press, 2003

<span class=“caps”>ISBN</span> 0300098278, 9780300098273

492 pages

(“Downtown is the first history of what was once viewed as the heart of the American city. Urban historian Robert Fogelson gives a riveting account of how downtown—and the way Americans thought about it—changed between 1880 and 1950. Recreating battles over subways and skyscrapers, the introduction of elevated highways and parking bans, and other controversies, this book provides a new and often starling perspective on downtown’s rise and fall.”) available at…

As a result, just to review why cities past, with the introduction of the automobiles, made decisions to make roads that bypassed downtown areas for through downtown traffic. But, as history has shown with many downtowns past nobody really gets the downtown future planning correct for the now mobile citizens neighborhoods that slumber in the suburbs and downtowns today are only one of many business districts as connected by citizens and their cars everywhere and let’s not forget now the suburbs Internet commerce.

So, I would suggest before doing much Tacoma downtown future planning, as the pictures reflect Tacoma’s past within posts already made right-here, take a good looks at downtowns challenges of yesterday, understand the dynamics, and spend money wisely for tomorrows downtowns, else downtown of today may return to the urban slum of poverty for masses of people with the affluent again living in the suburbs.

March 14, 2009 at 4:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tora! Tora! Laura!

Get rid of the ugly ass concrete monolith BanK of America building!

March 14, 2009 at 7:19 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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John Sherman

Did you know, because I did not know, what I had suggested as a public private partnership between Town of Ruston and City of Tacoma can not done by <span class=“caps”>LID</span>s outside of the City of Tacoma boundary now, so the rules must be changed by the Wash. Leg. Sess. 2009-10 to make it happen for Ruston and Tacoma <span class=“caps”>LID</span> to happen, but Wash. Leg. Sess. 2009-10 is going to attempt to make what Tacoma can’t do so they can do it – for example see “HB-2285: Addressing the formation of local improvement districts and utility local improvement districts comprised of property in more than one city or town.” available at…

and see also House Transportation Committee, 27 Feb. 2009, “Video event that contains public comments related to HB-2285” (video time 000:00:00 to 00:10:10).

So just some local government news related to Ruston and Tacoma that I must have missed reading.

March 15, 2009 at 2:45 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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One would think from the comments that only the transportation grid itself matters, and not the places underlying that grid.

That oh-so-convenient ramp that blocks the view also ensures that a large chunk of space cannot be accessed by humans; only cars can whiz through it.

Moving through Tacoma by car is very efficient.  But where do we want to be when we get there?

March 17, 2009 at 7:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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