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The Battery Street Tunnel will become rubble storage, not public space

Dreams of adaptive reuse were dashed at this week’s City Council meeting

The Battery Street Tunnel in 2009.
Courtesy of WSDOT

For months now, a group called Recharge the Battery has been building up momentum around a new life for the Battery Street Tunnel, which is slated to be decommissioned after the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down. Potential projects ranged from a mushroom farm to sustainable wastewater infrastructure. But after a City Council vote Monday afternoon, there’s only one thing that can happen to the tunnel: It will be filled with rubble and sealed off.

Bolstered by involvement from the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s Seattle chapter—and a number of local architects, including Miller Hull’s David Miller—Recharge the Battery chose a preferred alternative last week, combining park space with water treatment and a subterranean farm.

To move forward with that vision, though, the City Council would have to vote to not move forward with an agreement with the state, the city, and a contractor to decommission the tunnel and fill it in with the remains of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Ultimately, the City Council went with the original plan—largely because of the cost of doing seismic upgrades and other work on the tunnel, which could cost anywhere from $75 to $100 million, depending on the adaptive reuse vision.

The only dissenting votes were Sally Bagshaw and Debora Juárez—and even in Bagshaw’s case, she ceded that the funding constraints made the project infeasible.

“I feel we’re a little too late,” said Bagshaw.

Alaskan Way Viaduct

Alaskan Way Viaduct, , WA