'Great Wheel' owners propose downtown Seattle gondola

'Great Wheel' owners propose downtown Seattle gondola

SEATTLE - A new plan for elevated transportation in downtown Seattle could help boost waterfront tourism during tunnel construction.

The owners of the Great Wheel on Seattle's waterfront are proposing a gondola line: Cable-supported cars similar to an enclosed ski lift.

Kyle Griffith says an east-west line on Union Street would connect the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to the waterfront, with a stop at the Pike Place Market.

Griffith says he hopes the gondola line will help overcome a growing reluctance to visit waterfront attractions.

"One of the biggest complaints we get on the waterfront is difficulty parking," Griffith says.

That difficulty will only grow as tunnel construction moves north, the Alaskan Way Viaduct is torn down, and parking spaces disappear.

"We're excited to tie into parking garages by the convention center that are empty and underutilized," Griffith says. "Typically visitors to the waterfront are family groups with elderly and young people with strollers and walkers. The gondola really is a perfect solution. It's an amenity that'll be great during viaduct construction and the difficult times the waterfront will face."

Griffith says the gondola line can be erected quickly, but not until the state demolishes the central portion of the viaduct.

"What we're hoping to do is get the towers and foundation in, and then when the state knocks the viaduct down, we could hang the cables and the gondolas and be up and running in a few weeks," Griffith says.

It's unclear how much official support the Griffith family has for its proposal. The Great Wheel is a privately owned attraction on private property, while the proposed gondola line would occupy a public right-of-way.

The family will offer more details during a formal announcement set for noon today.