Alaskan Way Viaduct Rests after 66 Years of Service
The much hyped and used Alaskan Viaduct finally closed on Friday forever. It rested after 66 years of long service and the situation there was quite emotional. A crowd gathered to experience roadside glimpse at Elliott Bay, and people filled Victor Steinbrueck Park to photograph the bulwark below.
The Viaduct was scheduled to close at 10 p.m. As the closing time came near people gathered with their cars and vehicles at the north- and southbound decks. They celebrated in a huge way that can be compared to New Year’s celebration. Some danced on the road, some burnt tires and some took pictures for the final time.
There were fireworks, cheers and loads of convertibles. Finally, the authorities started to clear the crowd out after 11 p.m., and it took around half an hour to get the Viaduct empty.
With the closure of the Viaduct, people of Seattle can no longer enjoy the sunset of the Olympic Mountain. The illuminated great wheel will not be enjoyed. People’s emotions and cheers were unanticipated. But, it shows how deeply the Viaduct was engrossed with people of Seattle.
After the closure of a new 57-foot-wide, a four-lane tunnel from Sodo to South Lake Union will be taking its place. The state officials have aimed to open the new tunnel by February 4. People have to experience three weeks of severe traffic jams.
But the infamous Seattle squeeze will continue for another four years as viaduct demolition, Downtown Street repaving, convention center expansion, and private tower builders encroach on-street lanes. There is a possibility of adding a downtown streetcar or bike lane in the new tunnel.
The squeeze will officially end in 2023 when the light-rail trains start running between Seattle and Bellevue. Friday night’s viaduct closure started phase by phase. It was initiated at the corner of Columbia Street and First Avenue at 9:45 p.m., and then moved to the Elliott Avenue onramp and the West Seattle Bridge and Duwamish-area entrances.
And to start putting a final nail on the coffin, demolition contractors started destroying one block segment above diagonal Railroad Avenue South in Pioneer Square on Saturday morning.
The State transportation secretary Roger Millar said, “It is the end of the world as we know it. I feel fine” quoting the REM Song.
Millar also said that he was finally comforted to know that a huge structure of a six-storied building’s height was having cracks from 2001 after the Nisqually earthquake, will be gone by the middle of this year. He said he is now sure of people’s safety at least. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says when people visit waterfront; it will be a lot quieter as the 80 decibels making Viaduct’s traffic will not be there.
Others are getting ready for a less-pleasant kind of outcome when trips from Interbay take a lot longer because drivers have lost direct highway access that the viaduct’s Elliott Avenue onramp provided. More cars will gather near Mercer Street when they leave the north tunnel portal, and thousands of drivers will switch to waterfront Alaskan Way.
Tolls in the range of $1 to $2.25 will be charged in the tunnel from the summers. Though, as of now, no plans are there for public buses plying in the tunnel, employer-sponsored buses, carpools and airport shuttles, along with solo drivers can be seen.
The farewell is scheduled on February 2 and 3, and as many as 100000 people are expected to come to see the viaduct for the one final time and preview the new Tunnel. The three years ago around the same size of the crowd gathered to welcome the new University Link Light Rail bidding farewell to Highway 520 floating bridge.
Already about 71000 people have registered themselves for free walking access, or the paid 5-mile run or 12.5-mile bicycle ride that weekend.
Recently, the city Mayor Durkan hired retired Air Force general, Mike Worden, to coordinate among various agencies and departments to manage the traffic jams during the Highway 99 conversion and beyond.
The city lawmakers have welcomed the new establishments and recent developments in the city. Some of them said to make Seattle a model city there is a huge need to transform its infrastructure.
After a clear consensus of the voters of Seattle, the Viaduct closure was decided. As the city is going to have a new, safe and technologically advanced tunnel, the huge farewell to the age-old Viaduct was right at the time.