For Seattleites, it feels a bit like ancient Jericho, when the walls came crashing down. Except this time, instead of only foot traffic, there’s plenty of vehicular traffic stuck in a tiny bit of chaos all while construction crews rip away portions of the aging concrete Alaskan Way Viaduct.
If you don’t yet know, Seattle’s all in a tizzy about its $1.96 billion deep-bore tunnel under downtown. And the first major step toward the 2016 full removal of the 1953 concrete double-deck viaduct is the current nine-day closure to start demolition of the southern mile, which will get replaced by side-by-side bridges by 2013. The remaining northern portion of 1.7 miles of viaduct won’t come down until 2016, when that politically pesky tunnel gets all wrapped up (crews have just now started mobilizing on that front).
And while Southern California’s Carmageddon got plenty of press this summer, commuters in Seattle have some serious Viadoom going on right now. While crews topple concrete, 90,000 daily vehicles traveling north and south must either merge into the already clogged Interstate 5 mess or simply spread out on Seattle’s surface streets (that’s what bodies of water do to you, hedge you in going only north or south).
Monday morning started out just swimmingly, with a normal commute. But by 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon, things were slowing worse than the Northwest dealing with snowy roads (okay, not that bad, since nothing can really be that bad). Tuesday showed more of the same, with a manageable morning commute and a busier afternoon, even worse than on Monday, according to transportation officials. The Seattle Times created a time-lapse video using Google maps of how the traffic started stacking up on Monday.
When the northern section of the viaduct again opens on Halloween, the scary traffic sight won’t be fully over. After all, a large chunk of it will be removed and a detour will be in place in the southern section, creating a bit of a traffic hiccup until the entire project wraps up many years down the road (yeah, bad pun, I know).
Crews have already started on the first of two side-by-side bridges to take the stead of the earthquake-vulnerable viaduct in the SODO (south downtown) neighborhood and will start the second bridge and needed connectors next month. And that 58-foot wide tunnel? The digging should start in 2013 and last 13 months, all in time for the November 2016 completion.
But Oct. 31 is what Seattle drivers are looking forward to right now. They want roadway to drive on and right now Seattle is ripping it out faster than it is putting it up and this is just the start to a long process.
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