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Bertha’s side effects clear arteries

What happens to SR99 affects its neighbors

seattle fountain

It won’t happen for months or years, but you know someone is already planning for the day. When the SR99 tunnel is finished, more than SR99 will be affected. For decades, John Street, Thomas Street, and Harrison Street have ended or been cut by the highway. A concrete barrier blocked official pedestrian access. South Lake Union’s connection to Seattle Center was severed.

When Bertha bursts free there will be celebrations and most of the attention will focus on the tunnel, the waterfront, and the traffic. Barriers in places like at those three intersections will be up until 2019 because the structures inside the tunnel will take years to complete. People and businesses living in the neighborhood of those three streets are probably already planning for the improvement to their non-motorized traffic flow.

Access to Seattle Center events will no longer find people hurdling the barriers. The other side of the wall that was the highway will then be more appealing to restaurants and shops. Parking may be eased. There may be a more continual blending from the Space Needle down to the lake.

Any major change in our transportation infrastructure draws major attention because of the money, time, and disruption involved. The major benefits come later, hopefully. The overlooked benefits aren’t necessarily insignificant. It will be interesting to watch this pocket of the city as it prepares for the shift.

Of course, the major assumption is that Bertha does burst free. No problem, there. Right?

Listen to an interview on KUOW for more.