Closures expected for final Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection this weekend
Just because the Alaskan Way Viaduct is coming down in a few months doesn’t mean the state is going to stop inspecting it for cracks or unusual settling.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct closes for good on Jan. 11, 2019. That’s when the state will start the dismantling process. Drivers have just under three months left to drive on the old structure, but as long as there are cars on it, the state is going to make sure it’s safe.
“We all know it needs to come down, but they always check it to make sure it continues to maintain its structural integrity,” Washington Department of Transportation’s Dave Sowers said. “As long as the road is still operating, as long as it’s carrying traffic, we’re committed to operating it safely,” WSDOT’s Laura Newborn added.
The southbound lanes of the viaduct will be closed to traffic from 9 p.m. Friday night through 5 a.m. Monday morning to allow for that inspection, and continue the prep work for its demolition. The northbound lanes will be closed on Saturday between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Newborn said engineers will be looking for all the same things they have since the Nisqually earthquake 17 years ago.
“Any signs of cracking or any signs cracks growing or any signs of movement on the bridge,” she said. “Our engineers are committed to making sure the road is safe.” Should they find something usual, engineers will not allow the viaduct to open. That’s not expected, but you never know what they are going to find.
Newborn chuckled when asked if the engineers are getting a little emotional knowing this is their final Alaskan Way Viaduct inspection. This will be the 33rd time this semi-annual inspection has been performed.
“I think they will just be very happy to see it go,” Newborn said.
Demolition of the viaduct will begin once the new tunnel opens to traffic. Debris is expected to go into the Battery Street Tunnel. It is being filled in as part of this project. Once the viaduct is down and all the debris is removed, the City of Seattle will begin the next phase of this project, which is the complete makeover of Alaskan Way.
When that’s complete in about four years, Alaskan Way is expected to handle some of the traffic that used to traverse SR 99. The city expects the new tunnel and expanded Alaskan Way to handle the current traffic load on the viaduct. The new road will have two general purpose lanes in each direction, in addition to dedicated bus lanes. There will also be bike lanes and wide sidewalks.