End of an era: Alaskan Way Viaduct closes to make way for new SR 99 tunnel

SEATTLE -- It was 10-years ago this spring that then Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation that put into motion the new tunnel underneath downtown Seattle.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is scheduled to close forever.

Once closed, the Washington State Department of Transportation says it will take about 3 weeks to get the highway aligned with the new tunnel.

Crews have much work remaining including tearing down some temporary walls and pouring new concrete. During the closure, however, traffic is likely going to get worse around Seattle.

“Now we look back and we think what an accomplishment,” said WSDOT’s David Sowers. “We stuck with it and we completed this project and now we’re on the cusp of closing viaduct down and opening the tunnel in three weeks.”

It’s the end of an era for Seattle as a major corridor for commuters and commerce will forever change Friday night.

“We need to be a little patient and we’ll all get through this,” said Sowers.

That because next week’s rush hours will likely be even more congested. Transportation officials are urging people take mass transit – either by water taxis, buses, sounder rail or light rail. A free waterfront shuttle bus service has expanded to help commuters connect between transportation options around the city core.

“Think about using alternative modes to get downtown, transit or other modes to get to work,” said Sowers.

Also happening during the closure, multiple on-street parking stalls will be disappearing across downtown Seattle in an effort to keep traffic moving and help first responders get to emergencies.

Officials are also warning commuters could see traffic congestion overflow onto other major freeways.

While the viaduct has survived decades of use, and an earthquake, engineers say the new tunnel will not only be safer but will also last even longer.

“Something that will be out here for another 100 years,” said Sowers. “Our great-grandchildren will be using this tunnel.

The closure begins around 10 o’clock Friday night.