The short-term closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle a few weeks ago was predicted to result in massive congestion, nicked-named ‘Viadoom’.
You can guess what actually didn’t happen.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct carried 90,000 cars a day before it was shut down. Where did they all go?
Since the closure of Highway 99 through Seattle on Jan. 11, commute times have been slightly above average — but have fallen far short of the most dire predictions. And fewer cars and trucks than normal have been traveling on the region’s other major highways.
There have been some bad commutes, and we’ll forgive you for knocking on wood before reading too much further. But about halfway through the longest highway closure in local history, Viadoom hasn’t been that doomy.
… this phenomenon of reduced demand is so common and well-documented that it is simply unremarkable. Whether it was Los Angeles closing a major section of freeway to replace overpasses, or Atlanta’s I-85 freeway collapse, or the I-35 bridge failure in Minneapolis, or the demolition of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway, we’ve seen that time and again when freeway capacity is abruptly reduced, traffic levels fall as well.
… in the next few weeks, keep an eye on Seattle: If the one of the nation’s most bustling cities can survive the loss of a freeway segment that carries a hundred thousand vehicles a day, its a strong sign that more modest changes to road systems really don’t have much impact on metropolitan prosperity.
Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute has been writing about this project for over a decade, arguing not only for viaduct removal but also that Seattle could actually thrive without a waterfront highway.
Now, for these few weeks, we get to see what Seattle’s transportation system might have been like if we’d torn down the Viaduct and replaced it with nothing at all. And maybe, just maybe, that experience will offer at least one piece of evidence that Seattle without a waterfront highway could have been a lot more livable than so many of us thought it would be.
After the Viaduct removal, there will still be an eight-lane surface highway in addition to the four-lane tunnel as depicted above. How long should we guess before there will be a movement to remove the highway?
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