One of the most hulking infrastructure pieces in Seattle is finally being taken down. Love it or hate it, the Alaskan Viaduct in Seattle has served its purpose as a double-decker highway moving 90,000 vehicles a day, and its demise presents a new interpretation of a section of shore front for the city.
As The New York Times reports this 1.4 mile remnant of an elevated road through the downtown is 65 years old and is “a sublimely ugly and stoutly utilitarian force of engineering .”
But remember that was part of the times, when waterfronts were dominated by industrial uses, with no question asked about any other use intervening. The best thing to do with traffic along the waterfront was to move it out of there, and a 40 foot high viaduct did just that.
In a tightly developed pattern of streets, the demolition of Alaska Way provides Seattle a unique opportunity to create public space akin to Chicago’s Millennium Park or New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. Marshall Foster the director of Seattle’s office of waterfront and civic projects eloquently states “Fundamentally it’s about reclaiming that waterfront, where the city started, as the front porch.”
The viaduct will be replaced with a two-mile tunnel for traffic at a cost of 3.3. billion US dollars, with the opportunity to reknit the area with a sparkling public space that will address the waterfront. The Washington State Department of Transportation even has a countdown clock warning motorists of the impending shutdown of the last section of viaduct, which closes for good on January 11, 2019.
Adjacent developments and businesses will benefit from less traffic noise, a comprehensive park treatment, and infrastructure supportive of Seattle’s public transit system.
Of course the viaduct has been part of Seattle’s downtown for a very long time, and its history and demolition have resulted in the song “O Viaduct”recorded by “The Argument”. Their music video is attached below, and some of the lyrics speak to the lack of earthquake proofing of the elderly structure.
“O, Viaduct, you’re outta luck, we put you up and we let you down,” the song goes. “They said you’d fall and kill us all, but you were tried and true.”