As 2-week closure looms, state answers concerns about safety of Seattle’s viaduct

As a two-week closure of Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct approaches, drivers are urged to plan alternate routes to help ease what are expected to be major traffic impacts.

Meanwhile, state officials are trying to quell concerns that the closure could last longer than expected.

Starting Friday, April 29, State Route 99 will be closed from the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel to Spokane Street as Seattle’s tunnel boring machine, Bertha, begin drilling beneath the structure.

Asked whether the aging viaduct could be damaged during tunneling, leading to a longer closure, WSDOT’s David Sowers said Thursday that the project’s contractor and the state have taken all necessary precautions.

“One of the things we’re doing is we have a 24-hour command center that’s going to be in place during the entire closure. We’ve got international tunneling experts on site full-time during all of this,” said Sowers, deputy administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

“So all eyes and ears are on the project. If there’s any kind of issue that develops, people will be able to respond immediately. If repairs need to be made or the machine has to be adjusted, that will happen in real-time and the contractor will continue to mine. We will not open the viaduct back up until it is safe for the traveling public.”