Will we actually miss the viaduct when it’s gone?
If there’s one thing most Seattleites agree on, it’s their frustration with the traffic and safety issues created by the Alaskan Way Viaduct. But the viaduct is also an integral part of Seattle’s history that we’ll never get back once it comes down in early 2019.
“We’re losing a piece of old Seattle,” New York Times Seattle Bureau Chief Kirk Johnson told Gee Scott and Mike Lewis on The Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio. “It certainly was an emblem of the mid- and early 20th century — you saw it as you passed by the city and the water, and it was in its own weird way a spectacular thing of a drive that never had existed prior to that.”
Built in phases between 1949 and 1953, the viaduct was emblematic of Seattle’s rise to prominence as a post-World War II metropolis. But after its south-end was damaged — and later removed — following the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, it became clear that it posed a safety risk.
Still, though, there’s a sense of historical significance attached to both the viaduct and the roads underneath.
“The elevation lifted up the cars overhead, but it created this whole kind of underworld beneath it too, that had its connections back to old Pioneer Square and old Klondike era stuff that was sheltered in a strange way from the modern wave of development,” Johnson said.
“It was its own world underneath … a piece of Seattle that’s going to be lost,” he added.
The viaduct will officially close for good Jan. 11, 2019. It’s estimated to take approximately three weeks before the new SR 99 tunnel opens, shutting down Highway 99 in both directions between South Lake Union and the stadiums. Anyone who normally uses the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be forced onto other roads, like I-5 and downtown Seattle surface streets.
In the meantime, WSDOT is advising drivers to reconsider the ways they get around downtown come January, including working from home, investing in a bicycle, walking, and staying out of the area entirely.