Crunch time: Demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct begins
information from WSDOT
Eighteen years ago this month, the Nisqually earthquake shook, but did not topple, the State Route 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct. Today, crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation did what Mother Nature did not: began tearing down the double-deck highway, clearing the way for the long-anticipated transformation of Seattle’s downtown waterfront.
“With State Route 99 now carrying people in a new tunnel beneath Seattle, it’s time to take down the old viaduct once and for all,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “We won the race against time, now we can reconnect the city to its waterfront.”
The contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., began demolition today, Feb. 15. Over the next six months or so, they will use large machinery to crunch, munch and cut the structure into pieces to be hauled away by truck. When the viaduct is gone, the City of Seattle will begin work on a new surface street and public open space along the waterfront.
“Finally, the viaduct is coming down,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “The start of the demolition of the viaduct is a big step toward building a city of the future. Now, we can begin to reconnect Seattle with its heart – the Puget Sound – and move ahead on our new 'Waterfront for All,' with 20 acres of public spaces for everyone.”
Demolition started at the former on-ramp that connects First Avenue to the viaduct at Columbia Street. Soon, a second crew will begin demolishing a section of the viaduct near Pike Street. Demolition will occur in sections, with crews generally spending no more than 30 days working in each area. This video explains the demolition plan in more detail. A new interactive web tracker allows the public to follow Kiewit’s progress.
The demolition contract requires Kiewit to protect buildings, streets and utilities as they complete their work. They also must keep businesses open and people moving. Alaskan Way will remain open throughout demolition, though it will be reduced to one lane in each direction in areas directly adjacent to the work zone. Closures of streets that intersect with Alaskan Way will be minimized as well, to keep east-west access between the waterfront and downtown open.
“The waterfront, Seattle Aquarium, Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square are home to great food and attractions that will remain open for business throughout this work,” said Brian Nielsen, WSDOT’s administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “Not only should people continue to visit, they should consider coming down to watch demolition crews at work. What could be more exciting than seeing the transformation of the waterfront in person?”
Visitors can take advantage of the free Waterfront Shuttle that runs between the downtown waterfront and three nearby neighborhoods (Seattle Center, Pioneer Square and the Central Business District). The shuttle program, extended through summer 2019, is paid for with WSDOT funding set aside to help neighborhoods most affected by the project. Information about nearby parking is available at downtownseattleparking.com.
In addition to viaduct demolition, Kiewit’s contract includes work to decommission and seal the Battery Street Tunnel. They will also reconnect John and Thomas streets across Aurora Avenue North, just north of the Battery Street Tunnel. The streets have been closed to east-west access for more than 60 years. This work will include lane reductions and closures near the new SR 99 tunnel’s north portal. Additional information is available at www.alaskanwayviaduct.org.