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Elvis Viaduct
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A story told with lost and found viaduct sounds

Elvis woos his lady atop the Space Needle in "It Happened at the World's Fair." Of course, you can see the headlights on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. (Feliks Banel's collection of images)

The two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, so that Bertha can dig beneath the structure safely, is more than 15 years in the making. It’s been a bumpy road, in more ways than one, since the Nisqually Quake of February 28, 2001 damaged the structure, and set into motion a long civic soap opera that has yet to see its final act.

Here’s a short audio montage of lost and found sounds telling, more or less, the story of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

1. Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters sing of the old pre-viaduct Seattle waterfront in “Black Ball Ferry Line” in 1951.

2. Ivar Haglund sings in a radio commercial from 1953 about his customers’ troubles getting off the brand-new Viaduct and finding his restaurant.

3. Seattle Mayor Gordon Clinton sings the praises of Highway 99, the Battery Street Tunnel and the Alaskan Way Viaduct in this promotional film from 1961.

4. While Elvis Presley and Joan O’Brien dine in a soundstage Space Needle in 1962 for a scene from the classic film “It Happened at the World’s Fair,” Elvis serenades his gal pal while a fake viaduct twinkles on the painted scenery in the distance.

5. Dave Ross is on the mic and coolly riding the waves of the Nisqually Quake, the natural disaster that doomed the viaduct in February 2001.

6. Matt Smith narrates this tongue-in-cheek video promoting the parody grassroots group, The Committee to Save Big Ugly Things, in 2006.

7. Governor Christine Gregoire speaks in March 2007, following the defeat by Seattle voters of both the “cut and cover” tunnel proposal and the Viaduct rebuild proposal.

8. Mayor Greg Nickels celebrates the decision to build a deep bore tunnel in May 2009; he would be defeated in his bid to seek a third term in the August primary.

9. Governor Gregoire describes the deep bore option in January 2009.

10. Mayor Mike McGinn, inaugurated six months earlier, addresses the Seattle City Council and decries the lack of clarity in ultimate responsibility for deep bore tunnel cost overruns in July 2010.

11. When Bertha ground to a halt and theories about what was stopping her ran wild, Lester Holt of NBC News had the story in December 2013.

12. The Washington State Department of Transportation’s viaduct earthquake simulation video gets a brilliant and scary audio makeover from a YouTube user circa 2010.

13. KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross delivers one of his brilliant parody songs, turning Gordon Lightfoot’s “Carefree Highway” into the viaduct-themed “Scary Highway” in March 2001.

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