On Wednesday, the Alaskan Way Viaduct finally came of retirement age. Seattle’s viaduct is now slated for demolition in 2019 and will be replaced by the controversial Bertha boring machine’s underground tunnel, which could open this autumn after a three-year delay.
But did you know that years ago, the viaduct was just as contentious as the tunnel has been? Here’s a look back at its history.
OPENED: 1953. It was one of Seattle’s first big transportation projects after World War II.
WHY IT WAS BUILT: To help ease traffic congestion in downtown Seattle (lol). The traffic was caused by cars coming into the city via Highway 99, which was the West Coast’s first road to span between the Mexican and Canadian borders.
WHAT IT’S KNOWN FOR: Great drive-by views of the pier and Puget Sound … and gradually sinking after Seattle’s 2001 earthquake. 😱
FUN FACT: Before construction began in 1948, the viaduct was hated by some Seattleites. Why? Because they thought it was ugly. And what did they want in its stead? A tunnel. We aren’t joking.
BEST QUOTE: Years after the viaduct opened, Stimson Bullitt, King Broadcasting’s former president, told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer that “it would be a great boon if the viaduct disappeared but I fear it is durable. One may dream, perhaps, of comets.” Or Bertha.
WHAT’LL HAPPEN WHEN IT’S GONE: Organizers with Waterfront Seattle, a program that launched to turn Seattle’s shoreline into a public space, are teaming up with the city’s Office of the Waterfront to make the streets around the viaduct more accessible and walkable. Parts of the project, including rebuilding Pier 62 into a view point and outdoor concert space, are already underway. Other plans, like expanding the Seattle Aquarium’s exhibit space, creating a mile-long promenade, and building a walkway to connect Pike Place Market to the waterfront, could be finished by 2024.
Will you miss the Viaduct when it’s gone? Let us know why or why not here.