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Saying goodbye to the Alaskan Way Viaduct

With final drives, walks, and rides, Seattleites sent off the aging highway

The Alaskan Way Viaduct carried its final car on January 11, 2019—but before it was officially decommissioned, a parade of cars with a cacophony of horns packed on for one last drive. Traffic moved slow as drivers and passengers checked out the iconic view enjoyed by motorists since the viaduct first started towering over the waterfront in the 1950s.

For three weeks it stayed intact, just unused, and down on the ground, life was mostly the same. The predicted traffic nightmare wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, and Alaskan Way and the surrounding area kept chugging along with the same ceiling of freeway, just accompanied by an eerie quiet without the car noise above. It came to life again—without even involving cars—for one last car-free weekend, with 100,000 people turning out for a run, a bike ride, art, performances, and exhibits, shining a new light on the dilapidated freeway before demolition.

Photographer Alex Garland takes us through the last days of the viaduct: its last day open to traffic, the silence of the three-week closure, and Seattle’s big goodbye party.


Headlights and taillights paint the Alaskan Way Viaduct with one final drive.
Alex Garland for Curbed Seattle
For decades, the viaduct has created a wall between downtown and the waterfront.
The Columbia Street onramp juts into Pioneer Square and downtown.
Alex Garland
In some places, the viaduct barely skirts buildings.
Navigating underneath the viaduct had become part of the waterfront experience.
Built after downtown’s oldest buildings, the viaduct’s ramps find ways to squeeze through.
The viaduct’s age shows in some places more than others.
Plants find a place nestled in the viaduct.
The viaduct’s upper deck, passing just under the noses of the buildings around it, became famous among motorists for its views.
Down below, a lower deck feels like a corridor with peekaboo waterfront views.
Art by Naomi Haverland decorated the viaduct for its goodbye weekend.
Seattleites got festive for the final viaduct walk—like these participants from the Bulgarian Cultural and Heritage Center.
Climate justice group 350 Seattle walks onto the viaduct led by Paul Chiyokten Wagner.
Viaduct walkers flew above downtown one last time.
Between the festival, run, and bike ride, more than 100,000 people wandered onto the decks of the viaduct during its closing weekend.