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Tolling Points

Alaskan Way Viaduct Demolition Transforms Seattle's Waterfront

By: 
Bill Cramer

It isn’t often that the process of taking down a well-known highway becomes a major cause for celebration.

But that’s what’s happened in Seattle, after the Washington State Department of Transportation successfully demolished the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  Today, Nov. 12, is the first workday where tolls on the new SR-99 Tunnel replacing the Viaduct go into effect.

The project was seen as a big opportunity to optimize traffic through a congested corridor and transform the city’s waterfront district. After it was done, WSDOT produced a 6½-minute YouTube video, complete with close-up action sequences and before-and-after photos, that had drawn nearly 385,000 views as of early November.

“For more than 60 years, the Alaskan Way Viaduct carried people and goods through the heart of downtown Seattle,” the video states. “But a new deep bore tunnel would move that traffic underground, and create a new challenge: demolishing a major highway right next to buildings, people and traffic. No explosives allowed.”

The video shows crews and equipment hard at work taking the 1.4-mile elevated roadway apart, almost literally piece by piece. First, jackhammers punch out a section of roadway, leaving the support beams behind. Then concrete saws and cranes move in to finish the job. Along Seattle’s Southern Waterfront, demolition takes place just inches away from buildings, prompting work teams to handle 40-ton components with the utmost care.

Throughout, crews spray water to control dust and hang industrial curtains to control flying debris. Everyone takes extra care near Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market—particularly because they’re working above an active railway track, with trains still running below. All the steel and concrete from the former major thoroughfare is recycled, and the surrounding roads reopen as construction moves along the route.

“Through it all, people and traffic keep moving safely,” WSDOT says, before running video of Seattleites carrying their iconic cups of coffee alongside an active construction site. For transportation innovators, this was one massive destruction project to allow for the major construction of one of the largest double-decker tunnels in the world.  Smart move!

Click here for a step-by-step look at the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 - 10:30

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