Occasional visitors to Seattle may be surprised to discover that their favorite route from the airport to downtown has changed. State Highway 99 no longer links to the Alaskan Way Viaduct into downtown Seattle. The waterfront viaduct has been closed and demolition has begun. The Battery Street tunnel that connected viaduct traffic to Aurora Avenue North will also be demolished.
Closure of the viaduct is the culmination of planning that began when the viaduct was damaged by an earthquake in 2001. After considering many engineering and financial studies, the Washington State Department of Transportation decided to replace the viaduct with a highway tunnel. WSDOT signed a design-build contract in 2011 and tunnel mining began in July 2013. Unfortunately, the tunnel boring machine stopped advancing in December 2013. After dramatic efforts that included building a shaft 120 feet deep and lifting huge pieces of the TBM to the surface for inspection and repairs, the contractor resumed mining in January 2016. The tunnel is now completed. There will be a grand opening ceremony on February 2 and 3, 2019. The tunnel will open to traffic shortly after that. It will be free at first, with tolls phasing in later this year.
Once the viaduct is gone, the City of Seattle has big plans for expanding the Alaskan Way surface street and revitalizing the near-waterfront area.
Further information about this mega project can be found by googling any of the following:
Alaskan Way Viaduct – Tracking Progress
Seattle Waterfront Project