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Technology 65 years of the Viaduct: Remembering Seattle's most contested elevated freeway

00:50  24 september  2019
00:50  24 september  2019 Source:   seattlepi.com

Seattle woman, 33, is arrested for huge Capital One hack after 'stealing data from more than ONE HUNDRED MILLION credit card customers and applicants in America and Canada'

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Seattle ' s Alaskan Way Viaduct was many things — beloved, hated, seismically unsound, embattled, short, a helluva view. And after 65 years , the final bits Bertha ran into its fair share of trouble, taking much longer than initially forecasted, and giving the viaduct a bit of extra time to dazzle with its views

A surging population and worsening traffic describe Seattle today. But the same scenario played out a century ago as Seattle grew from small town to big city. Rapid growth created an urgent need for a major new roadway. The Alaskan Way Viaduct was part of the solution. But why was it elevated ?

The viaduct is no more.

Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct was many things — beloved, hated, seismically unsound, embattled, short, a helluva view. And after 65 years, the final bits of it have been torn down.

In its wake it leaves a brand new tunnel, a brand new waterfront, and plenty of memories of driving on it and praying an earthquake doesn't strike. Still, Seattle wouldn't be who it is without that stretch of highway, which, in just six decades, left a bigger footprint than its few miles.

Coming off of a couple of decades devoted to keeping Seattle changing -- completing the Denny Regrade, the Elliott Bay Seawall and the Aurora Bridge, to name a few -- the city was enjoying a post-war boom thanks to the airplanes Boeing was building in what's now Sodo. In 1954, the Battery Street Tunnel opened to provide a link from the Aurora Avenue "speedway" to the newly-constructed viaduct.

The viaduct was initially built to protect what the city viewed as the real reason for the waterfront: shipping. A petition was circulated which asserted that using the waterfront as a traffic bypass would cause "irreparable damage to the city's maritime commerce." By lifting the traffic above Alaskan Way, the city seemed to resolve the traffic issue.

RELATED: Video: Are you going to miss that viaduct view?

And everyone was happy with that resolution until February 2001, when an earthquake hit. The city came out relatively unscathed, but the 6.8 magnitude quake has sunk sections of the viaduct several inches.

Engineers and crews who worked to stabilize the viaduct agreed that if the quake had lasted a few moments longer, there wouldn't be a viaduct left to rescue. And so the decision was made to replace the viaduct -- but not, at least immediately, how.

During the next decade, ideas were bandied about, and one of the most scrutinized public processes in Washington's history waged on; more than 90 options were ultimately studied, according to the state Department of Transportation. Tempers flared, political campaigns came and went. So did parts of the viaduct itself, which were updated while we all waited for the politicians to sort out the issues.

RELATED: DeMay: As the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes, so closes a chapter of Seattle history

This time the focus on the waterfront had more to do with visuals than shipping, which had decamped to other spots in the city. And so eventually, it came down to two options: A new viaduct, or a new tunnel to replace it.

And in 2009 the decision was finally made: then-Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill approving funding for a viaduct replacement. The bill provided up to $2.8 billion in state funding for the new tunnel boring project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Bertha ran into its fair share of trouble, taking much longer than initially forecasted, and giving the viaduct a bit of extra time to dazzle with its views and also frustrate with its traffic jams.

RELATED: A timeline of Bertha's triumphs, fits and failures:

It wouldn't be until April 4, 2017 that Bertha would break on through to the other side. From there construction on the tunnel got going in earnest, completing in March 2018. The tunnel opened in early 2019 — with a brief distraction from the Snowpocalypse.

From there it was a slow tear down over the course of the next few months, with the last bits of the Alaskan Way Viaduct coming down before 2019 was out. It's just one stop on Seattle's way to being a brave new world, full of new roads and new, but we'll always have a little bit of a soft spot for the old Viaduct.

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This is interesting!