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Preserving Seattle's 'Ramps to Nowhere' as a Monument to Activists

Seattle Councilmember Jean Godden provides a history lesson and a call to action in an op-ed about the fate of a pair of "ramps to nowhere"—leftovers from the never-built R. H. Thomson freeway and, Godden argues, a monument to the "Seattle Process."
May 5, 2014, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"Although often damned as anti-progressive, Seattle Process also has — more than once — saved the city from major disasters," writes Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden.

"One of the most dastardly of the threatened disasters was a 1960s plan by the State Highway Department (predecessor of the Washington State Department of Transportation) to impose a griddle of freeways across Seattle to accommodate hordes of ex-urbanites whom planners believed would choose to settle in the suburbs. Their plan was a Mid-20thCentury nightmare, involving a new North-South freeway, an additional Lake Washington bridge or even two and an elevated viaduct walling off South Lake Union."

Councilmember Gooden credits the failure of the plan to the aforementioned "Seattle Process": "That the horror never happened was thanks to some feisty citizens, who organized into two citizen groups, took advantage of process and, quite improbably, ended up winning."

Serving as the backbone of the system would have been the R. H. Thomson Expressway, a six-lane freeway designed to stretch from the Duwamish to Bothell, which although never built, left behind a pair of ramps. According to Councilmember Goodell, "The ramps stand at the North end of the Arboretum and have been popular for decades with adventurous youth who have used them as diving and sunbathing platforms."

"With the projected rebuilding of SR 520, the plan now is to tear those ramps down. However, there are some — Crosscut columnist Knute Berger among them — who believe the ramps or some portion of them, ought to be saved as a memorial to grassroots democracy. A group called ARCH — Activists Remembered, Celebrated and Honored — wants to keep two pillars and a cross piece of the old freeway, an archway, standing as a monument."

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Published on Thursday, May 1, 2014 in
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