Alaskan Way Viaduct closure ends a 66-year chapter on waterfront
Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, emblem of the age of happy motoring, closed forever Friday night.
Drivers took to the 66year-old highway during its final hours to savor a final roadside glimpse at Elliott Bay, and crowds filled Victor Steinbrueck Park to photograph the bulwark below.
As the expected 10 p.m. closing time passed, drivers and their cars filled the north- and southbound decks in a boisterous celebration people compared to New Year’s Eve or Mardi Gras. Hundreds of driv- ers stopped on the roadway to take pictures or burn rubber, while a few danced between the cars.
From an overlook at Pike Place Market, cheers arose for fireworks, convertibles, a wayward Metro bus and loud trucks. Authorities began clearing the roadway around 11 p.m., and most of the viaduct was empty by about 11:35 p.m.
With the closure, no longer will we drive our in-laws home from the airport and wave like a boss toward the Olympic Mountain sunset. Runoff from the top deck won’t splatter our windshield in the right lane, when cruising south past the illuminated Great Wheel. Only memories remain of staring from a slow bus to find “Go Hawks” written in gray epoxy on the center lane approaching Seneca Street.
The viaduct will be replaced by a 57-foot-wide, four-lane tunnel from
Sodo to South Lake Union, following three weeks of severe traffic jams, without any Highway 99 to bypass downtown. State officials aim to open the tunnel early Monday, Feb. 4.
The so-called Seattle Squeeze will persist another four years as viaduct demolition, downtown street repaving, convention center expansion and private tower builders encroach on street lanes. Maybe a downtown streetcar and bike lanes will be added, maybe not.
The squeeze unofficially ends in 2023 when lightrail trains begin running between Seattle and Bellevue.