The soon-to-be-former Alaskan Way Viaduct showing the orange cranes from the Port of Seattle in the background, and and small segment of the hundreds of thousands who walked it.
The soon-to-be-former Alaskan Way Viaduct showing the orange cranes from the Port of Seattle in the background, and and small segment of the hundreds of thousands who walked it.

Viaduct gloom and bloom

SEATTLE, Feb. 2, 2019—For 65 years, an elevated, two-level highway—the Alaskan Way Viaduct—split downtown Seattle from its waterfront, not unlike Boston's Central Artery that split the city.

 

The viaduct was built on mudflats and landfill, and it had already begun sinking when, in 2001, when a medium-sized earthquake hit, causing major damage to brick masonry buildings, and causing the viaduct to sink even more. 

 

This being Seattle, folks debated for years on how to replace it. Extremist environmentalists argued to tear the thing down and not replace it. Yeah, that would show those cars and trucks who's in charge.

 

Finally, voters approved a waterfront tunnel to carry the traffic—just as Boston's Central Artery was replaced by a tunnel.

 

Like Boston, the tunnel project was over budget and several years late. (No corruption, but the tunnel boring machine, nicknamed Bertha after our first female mayor, and the largest boring machine ever made at the time, got stuck and broken. The lawsuits continue.)

 

But hurrah! On Monday, Feb. 4, 2019, the new waterfront tunnel opens. To celebrate the viaduct's closure and imminent removal, the state opened up to pedestrians the viaduct, an old tunnel to which it connected (which will be filled in), as well as the new tunnel.

 

At least 200,000 people showed up today to walk the viaduct, old tunnel, and new tunnel. the new tunnel was built in a four-story tube that Bertha created. The southbound and northbound lanes are on top of each other.

The lines to get onto the viaduct and into the tunnels stretched for a mile all day. But when the organizers decided to stop checking the timed tickets, things went a lot smoother.
The lines to get onto the viaduct and into the tunnels stretched for a mile all day. But when the organizers decided to stop checking the timed tickets, things went a lot smoother.
The bomb squad's sniffer dog gave the all-clear about an abandoned backpack.
The bomb squad's sniffer dog gave the all-clear about an abandoned backpack.

This is one of 4 portals: the southern end of the viaduct/old tunnel. You can see people entering via an old exit ramp. In the lower right corner street, the line snakes around several city blocks.
This is one of 4 portals: the southern end of the viaduct/old tunnel. You can see people entering via an old exit ramp. In the lower right corner street, the line snakes around several city blocks.
End of the line, since parts of the viaduct are already down. The Seahawks and Mariners play in the hangar-like stadia in the distance.
End of the line, since parts of the viaduct are already down. The Seahawks and Mariners play in the hangar-like stadia in the distance.

Anybody who is anybody was there:




The viaduct and old tunnel showed cracks & rebar. Expansion joints had expanded a bit too much:


Views from the viaduct

Seattle: steam punk kind of town
Seattle: steam punk kind of town
We'll miss you, viaduct. Not.
We'll miss you, viaduct. Not.

Remember the old Washington Mutual bank that screwed so many of its customers and employees because its leadership combined both greed and incompetence? The tall building in back is its former headquarters, a monument to greed.

 

The cool-looking building in the right front is a condo whose assessed valuation just soared because now the residents have a view unimpeded by a noisy elevated highway.

Overlooking the Washington State Ferry terminal.
Overlooking the Washington State Ferry terminal.
Underlooking new parts of Pike Place Market, home of the first Starbucks, which allowed Howard Schultz to become Trump's dupe.
Underlooking new parts of Pike Place Market, home of the first Starbucks, which allowed Howard Schultz to become Trump's dupe.

The viaduct segues into the old Battery Street tunnel, which will be filled in

Note the top of the Space Needle, which looks strange from this perspective.
Note the top of the Space Needle, which looks strange from this perspective.
Inside the old tunnel
Inside the old tunnel
Teaching truth to the younger generation
Teaching truth to the younger generation
Coming out of the old tunnel's north portal. Note the landmark Elephant Car Wash sign above it.
Coming out of the old tunnel's north portal. Note the landmark Elephant Car Wash sign above it.

Finally, the new waterfront tunnel…

The north portal for the new tunnel. The Gates Foundation is just to the right out of the picture.
The north portal for the new tunnel. The Gates Foundation is just to the right out of the picture.
The "LAST CHANCE" sign refers to the last chance for pedestrians to turn around before committing to walk two more miles.
The "LAST CHANCE" sign refers to the last chance for pedestrians to turn around before committing to walk two more miles.
Cool icons for emergency exits. The new tunnel is the safest place to be when the next earthquake strikes.
Cool icons for emergency exits. The new tunnel is the safest place to be when the next earthquake strikes.
Want to go from Seattle to Boston? Turn left in 1 mile and drive straight for the next 3,000 miles. CenturyLink Field is where the Seahawks play; T-Mobile Park is the Mariners.
Want to go from Seattle to Boston? Turn left in 1 mile and drive straight for the next 3,000 miles. CenturyLink Field is where the Seahawks play; T-Mobile Park is the Mariners.