Crews snatched the final column of the Alaskan Way Viaduct from the steep hillside near Pike Place Market in late November, capping the demolition of a concrete roadway that separated much of downtown Seattle from the waterfront for nearly seven decades.
Not only was the removal of the last column the end of the viaduct demolition, it also marked the end of what was another eventful year for the entire project. The new State Route 99 tunnel, bored by Bertha, opened in February and the viaduct removal lasted much of the year.
“Nothing about this job was easy,” says Roger Millar, Washington state secretary of transportation, in a statement. “The demolition project was a remarkable accomplishment as the viaduct stood perilously close to buildings and utilities and a critical rail corridor. We appreciate our contractor, Kiewit Infrastructure West, which finished the job with no injuries and no significant damage. And we’re proud to have cleared the way for Seattle’s new waterfront.”
The viaduct carrying the State Route 99 highway opened in the 1950s and was damaged in a 2001 earthquake, but still operated until closing to traffic at the start of 2019 to allow a shift to the world’s largest single-bore double-deck road tunnel.
“Our state laid out a bold vision to build the world’s largest single-bore tunnel beneath Seattle and restore the city’s connection to its waterfront,” says Gov. Jay Inslee, in a statement. “The Washington State Dept. of Transportation delivered on that vision all in the name of safety.”
As part of the process, the viaduct demolition turned into a recycling project, as concrete from the viaduct was crushed and used to fill the decommissioned Battery Street Tunnel, no longer needed once the new tunnel opened. An estimated 240 million pounds of concrete was recycled, along with more than 15 million pounds of steel rebar.
Now that the demolition is complete, the city of Seattle will rebuild Alaskan Way and the central waterfront, spending $724 million to reshape the area once dominated by the viaduct.
The City of Seattle can start to put a renewed focus on creating a park promenade along the water, constructing new surface street connections along Alaskan Way, rebuilding Pier 58 and 62, building an elevated pedestrian connection from Pike Place Market to the waterfront and improving east-west vehicular connections between downtown and Elliott Bay. This effort, called Waterfront Seattle, has been running since 2010, but has a 2023 end date now in view that the viaduct is gone.
The ongoing Pier 62 update includes welding rebar between deck panels to secure them in place with concrete poured in gaps between the panels before a final slab is poured to finish the surface of the renovated pier. Additional work in 2019 includes final removal of the viaduct, new street connections, the rebuilt Pier 62 that should open by the end of the year with a new deck and habitat improvements in various areas.
The 2020 plans include construction of a new pedestrian bridge, stairs and an elevator on Union Street from Western Avenue to Alaskan Way.
Then, 2021 really gets things moving with more pedestrian improvements, an Overlook Walk connection between Pike Place Market and the waterfront, improved street connections for vehicle traffic, a main park promenade along the water and piers with a bike bath, a new park on Pier 58 and additional connections to Colman Dock. While many of these projects will begin in 2021 and not wrap until 2023 — a new Seattle Aquarium Ocean Pavilion will likely extend into 2024 — the vast majority of the new waterfront, made possible by the construction of the tunnel and removal of the viaduct, will really start taking shape in 2021.
In all, the 20 acres of open space planned for the downtown waterfront will include an ample amount of pedestrian access and new park spaces.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.