Seattle residents will get the opportunity to celebrate their new tunnel Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2-3, and get one last chance to check out the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will be fully removed in the coming months.
Washington State Dept. of Transportation has spent years leading the effort to build the nearly 2-mile-long State Route 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle and erase the need for the viaduct, considered seismically vulnerable. Now, on the eve of the tunnel opening to vehicle traffic, WSDOT has an entire weekend of festivities planned.
Saturday includes an 8K fun run, tunnel walk, family-friendly STEM activities and a community celebration and art festival on the viaduct. Sunday features a bike ride through the tunnel. Some events require tickets.
The north hub on Sixth Avenue opens Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and includes access to a tunnel walk, which requires a free ticket, STEM activities, a life-size Bertha cutterhead mural, food trucks and access to the Battery Street Tunnel entrance and the community celebration on the viaduct, which also requires a free ticket. This will also serve as the start of Saturday’s fun run and Sunday’s tunnel bike ride, both of which require paid registration.
Those with a viaduct ticket are able to enjoy a community celebration and art festival on the viaduct and visit the Battery Street Tunnel, which closes to traffic on Friday, Feb. 1. The Battery Street Tunnel will get filled in as part of the decommissioning of the viaduct.
The South Hub located at Pyramid Brewery, will also run from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and includes STEM activities, music, food trucks and a shuttle to the North Hub (although no return service).
For those interested in the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, no ticket is required for the 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. event on Saturday at the south end of the tunnel, with access from South Royal Brougham Way. For more details on the "Step Forward" event, visit the WSDOT site here.
Once the weekend festivities wrap up, eager commuters won't await the actual opening of the tunnel for long. WSDOT announced the opening of the tunnel for Monday, Feb. 4. While WSDOT does expect a few hours of work in the early morning, it hopes to have the tunnel opening for the majority of the morning commute on Monday. Once open, the project will still take about another two weeks for the final ramps to open, with a northbound off-ramp to downtown and Alaskan Way just south of the tunnel.
While the tunnel will eventually require a toll, as does the relatively recent opening of the world’s longest floating bridge, State Route 520, connecting Seattle to points east across Lake Washington, the opening months of the tunnel will remain free to vehicle traffic as WSDOT encourages use of the multibillion-dollar project.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.