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Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition is complete

Bye, viaduct!

A large, double-decker, elevated highway runs along a coastline past many piers, including one with a lighted ferris wheel, at night. Alex Garland for Curbed Seattle

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is officially gone forever after a months-long demolition process. Removing the elevated highway has been in the works for a long time—but it can still seem like it came down overnight.

This was previously a resource guide for the latest on demolition, but now that it’s gone, let’s recap.

I haven’t been to Seattle in a while. What does the waterfront even look like?

It’s a lot different. The simplest (and most obvious) way to put it is that it looks the same, but without a viaduct. The buildings in the surrounding area are more clearly visible—and some, having been hidden behind a freeway for more than 60 years, look like they could use a bath. It’s easier to see into the rest of downtown from the waterfront.

The change is most jarring viewed from a distance, though, as from a ferry heading to Colman Dock or from above. WSDOT has put together a video with aerials of the before and after to show just how different things are.

How long did demolition take?

Demolition work started the afternoon February 15, 2019 at the Columbia Street onramp and finished up November 21, 2019—meaning the process took about nine months.

What about the Battery Street Tunnel?

Rather than become an adaptive reuse project like some neighborhood advocates were pushing for, the tunnel is kind of a tomb for the viaduct—it was filled with rubble and will eventually be sealed off. Viaduct parts entered the tunnel in baseball-sized pieces.

WSDOT says that an estimated 240 million pounds of concrete and more than 15 million pounds of steel rebar found a new life as infill.

The interior of a tunnel. There is graffiti on the walls and a bright yellow pipe in the foreground.
RIP Battery Street Tunnel.

What did demolition look like?

During active demolition, the process was pretty hard to miss, with all the crumbling concrete and relevant machinery. In case you missed it, WSDOT put toegher a behind-the-scenes video partway through.

Who demolished the viaduct?

Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. has officially been selected as the viaduct demolition contractor.

How much did demolition cost?

Kiewit bid the work, including designing the project, at $93.7 million. The scope of the work included not just demolition itself, but Battery Street Tunnel demolition, reconnecting Harrison, Thomas, and John to the tunnel, and replacing the Marion Street Pedestrian Bridge.

What method was used to demolish the viaduct?

If your questions are really in-depth and nerdy, take a look at this Seattle Times piece by Mike Lindblom, who has been covering the project for years now. In advance of demolition, it detailed the process: With each segment, crews started at the upper road deck first and moved downward. Those segments were then trucked away to be smashed into the pieces that would eventually fill in the Battery Street Tunnel.

With each segment, crews removed the decks, then girders and crossbeams, from top to bottom before removing columns. Crews also had to install barriers to protect nearby buildings—some very nearby, with one even notched into the roadway.

A piece of machinery tears into a concrete elevated highway. Surrounding crews spray water on the rubble. There are skyscrapers in the background. Courtesy of WSDOT

What was that chomp-chomp demolition machine?

That’s an excavator, a kind of giant, hydraulic shovel, with a special attachment on the head that allows it to munch on some concrete.

Where do I go—and where does my bus go—now that the viaduct is gone?

Short answer: Depending on the situation, it could be the tunnel, Alaskan Way, or other downtown surface streets. For longer answers, head over to our State Route 99 tunnel guide, which includes information on bus routes—none of which run through the new tunnel.

Is there anything left to do?

There’s some final demolition-related restoration in the coming days, but even after that’s complete, there’s plenty of work left: There will be additional road work to finish, and the Battery Street Tunnel still needs to be sealed off. WSDOT says the remaining work should be all wrapped up sometime in 2021.