Video: End of ‘Viadoom’ as Alaskan Way Viaduct reopens


ORIGINAL 11:31 AM REPORT: Refresh this page for the latest “live” look at the southbound lanes of Highway 99 – just reopened after almost 8 days. WSDOT announced the early-reopening plan yesterday (WSB coverage here) and says the northbound lanes should be open again by noon.

12:13 PM UPDATE: Northbound still hasn’t reopened as of a few minutes ago but we just drove the southbound lanes. Gary Potter of Potter Construction (WSB sponsor) in West Seattle says he was the second driver across!

I just drove the viaduct southbound at 11:11am. I was the second car behind the truck with yellow lights. Cars were getting on at Columbia as we passed. The first ave exit is a tight two lanes, gonna be slow with buses. The s curve at the bottom is very short then you are going up the new ramp. The northbound side was full of orange jackets, I waved and they all waved back.

Here’s our video (from camera affixed to dashboard):

Remember, the new elevated section in the second half of our 3-minute clip will eventually be southbound only – but till its northbound counterpart is built, it will carry traffic in both directions, two lanes each way. One more note: Metro has said it won’t go back to its “Viaduct routing” till SUNDAY morning. And school bus schedules return to normal (some had been altered) Monday morning.

12:46 PM UPDATE: Northbound just reopened! (added) Here’s our trip in that direction (pull the play button ahead to the 2-minute mark to just cut to the new part):

48 Replies to "Video: End of 'Viadoom' as Alaskan Way Viaduct reopens"

  • cj October 29, 2011 (11:37 am)

    I have to say for what they did in the time they had with their small army of equipment, that was an impressive display of demolition.

  • Bob Loblaw October 29, 2011 (11:43 am)

    Que “Looks like we made it.” Nice job everyone! We survived #viadoom

  • Teacher greg October 29, 2011 (12:05 pm)

    Viadoom part two: electric boogaloo coming soon.

  • Steve October 29, 2011 (12:06 pm)

    They could have handled it better. Why would they not have finished the ramp on 1st before starting this

  • Mack October 29, 2011 (12:18 pm)

    What are those tall, brown posts that are sticking up next to the bypass?

  • Barb October 29, 2011 (12:25 pm)

    Think Sdot is behind schedule on 1st ave ramps. WSDOT did not want to delay their whole schedule because SDOT is behind.

  • Maris October 29, 2011 (12:31 pm)

    The posts are the pilings for a new overpass for local traffic over 99 and the train tracks.

  • East Coast Cynic October 29, 2011 (12:38 pm)

    Those look like very narrow lanes on the new bypass–the articulated buses look like they could take up 1.5 of those lanes. I could see very slow going for buses fighting for space with the cars during the rush hours.

  • raincity October 29, 2011 (12:39 pm)

    This video is super helpful – thanks for doing that! It does look narrow, but at least there are no trains and no opening bridges…

  • Karen October 29, 2011 (12:47 pm)

    The northbound lanes are now open.

  • West Seattleite October 29, 2011 (12:52 pm)

    We entered the Viaduct by the Art Institute around 11:15. No other cars for the first mile and then a few behind us after the curves. Very eerie driving on a desolated Viaduct.

    WSDOT handled this perfectly, I am always perplexed by those who will always find something to complain about. Big thumbs up to everyone who got this project completed early, and a BIG thumbs up to the West Seattle Blog, who kept us updated about the closure months before it started.

  • J242 October 29, 2011 (1:04 pm)

    This is going to be a NIGHTMARE on busy traffic days/evenings… The South Atlantic Street exiters are going to back up traffic for miles, as it was they backed up traffic past the Columbia onramp already!

    What were these people thinking when they designed this replacement “solution”? It’s not a solution at all, it’s only going to create even MORE problems all so we can have an incredibly expensive, TOLL tunnel? Fail Seattle, complete and utter fail… Just re-build the viaduct, it’d be cheaper than the big dig and more functional as it could actually have on/off ramps into/from downtown.

  • Ian October 29, 2011 (1:25 pm)

    Cue confusion from half the city that seemed to think that the viaduct was completely going away forever as of last Saturday.
    I’m impressed that they were able to reopen everything nearly a full two days ahead of schedule. I hope we can continue seeing ahead-of-schedule progress on the rest of the viaduct and tunnel work.

  • cjboffoli October 29, 2011 (1:34 pm)

    Love the WSB Dashcam! :-)

  • JayDee October 29, 2011 (1:56 pm)

    Thanks for the video — I had wondered what reality looked like rather than simulations.

  • jimmy October 29, 2011 (1:57 pm)

    J242, spot on.

  • Lola P October 29, 2011 (2:24 pm)

    Thanks for the video… and the great reporting throughout. I’m glad there were other cars on the roadway to show that it’s not as narrow as it feels. The jersey barriers always make everything seem close and tight. And now we have our own “S” curves to drive. While I would, of course, prefer to have the road all to myself and configured just the way I like it and available just when I need it, I guess since I’ve chosen to live in a metropolitan area I’ll just have to look beyond myself this one time. Oh… alright.

  • metrognome October 29, 2011 (2:26 pm)

    J242 — so you would have preferred that Viadoom had gone on for 4 years instead of 9 days? That’s what would have happened if they tore the Viaduct down and built a new one. Yes, traffic will be slower with the temporary detours in place and commutes will take longer. Life will go on.

  • J242 October 29, 2011 (3:16 pm)

    @ metrognome:

    “so you would have preferred that Viadoom had gone on for 4 years instead of 9 days?”

    No, I would prefer they build arch supports underneath both the lower and upper sections of the viaduct attached to “sliding” load bearing plates (in order to allow the viaduct to “move” with a potential earthquake and also ensure that any movement would be distributed over a series of multiple arches) which could be installed over the course of 1 day per section. Closures would only be needed from 7pm until 5am maybe 20 times over the course of the project. From there you pre-build each section (interconnecting like legos) between the support points and tear one out then replace it. Again, overnight closures only while still giving us FOUR lanes of traffic with on ramp and off ramp access to the viaduct throughout the downtown corridor!

    “That’s what would have happened if they tore the Viaduct down and built a new one.”

    You are thinking of it as tearing it down and building a new one. I’m talking about a retrofitting operation over the course of 1 year that would replace the viaduct one step at a time. It would take LESS time than the big dig, LESS money AND it would provide a better traffic solution. But the SDOT apparently doesn’t care for cost saving, job creating solutions. They just want to do what they want to do regardless of the impact on our city’s traffic.

    “Yes, traffic will be slower with the temporary detours in place and commutes will take longer.”

    You pass that off as being just a minor inconvenience but you fail to recognize how much every minute of delay costs our city and local businesses. What happens during gridlock if an ambulance needs to get through? A fire truck? Police? ANY added delays are a negative thing and limiting public access roads (no on/off ramps into the downtown corridor) is a BAD thing.

    “Life will go on.”

    Yeah and as our population continues to grow it’s going to create a TON of problems. You seem perfectly happy to kick the can down the road, well good for you. I’m not happy to accept this and more people should be mad as well. This is an incredibly expensive, LOWER QUALITY option that we’re engaged in that LIMITS our transportation needs. This is just plain stupid on every level. Yes, the viaduct needs to be replaced because of the concerns regarding an earthquake but this is NOT the way to do it…

  • Diane October 29, 2011 (4:15 pm)

    just took quick loop cruise up & back to check out new viaduct; fun so far, especially to see from above the demo crew working on old viaduct; but it did feel very narrow; wonder how trucks & buses will be able to share such a tight space; what happens in case of car breakdown or emergency; there’s no where to pull over; also wondered about those white tabs sticking out of wall going north; assuming they’re reflectors, hoping not metal; with the very narrow road there, those little tabs could scrape the heck out of any vehicles that get too close; on the way south, saw that SODO exit is closed; so unless I missed something, for now anyone who goes south thinking they can get off by stadiums, has to go all the way south or west past our bridge to turn around? good to see all the new speed limit signs to slow down, 40 & 25; the next commute will for sure be interesting

  • Archos October 29, 2011 (4:24 pm)

    J242 yes.

    Unfortunately, what this comes down to (as does pretty much everything in politics) is money. When then mayor “Chicago style” Nickels (don’t you miss him now?) used to say “we’re gonna open up the water front” what he meant was “we’re gonna open up the water front for my developer friends and relatives.” Money talks, and if you have the means to grease the machine enough you get it to do what you want – ergo, the tunnel. All that hype about “earthquake risk” was mostly just that, hype. There are structures all over down town that “settle” as much or more than the viaduct ever did, where is the “urgency” in replacing those? Want to be inside a sub sea level, double decked tunnel when the next shaker hits? Not me. So just follow the money, who stands to gain the most from forcing this scam onto a naive public..

  • Marie Jeanne October 29, 2011 (4:39 pm)

    Get over it J242. It’s done. You lost. Seattle is on its way to becoming a world class city with tourists flocking to our waterfront. Great job WSB. Loved the video.

  • Bob Loblaw October 29, 2011 (4:55 pm)

    we were happy to be among the first cars that were headed north just as they were removing the big cones. i spend a lot of time griping about commuting, but still couldn’t resist trying to be out there first today on its maiden voyage. it’s going to be tight in a few spots for sure. will see what Monday morning brings us.

  • Westie October 29, 2011 (5:18 pm)

    Wow. The video is helpful. That was pretty impressive work done in 8 days and now people are moving again…maybe slower, but moving. Bye bye viaduct.

  • J242 October 29, 2011 (7:53 pm)

    @ “Marie Jeanne” ‘s insipid comment:

    “Get over it J242. It’s done. You lost. Seattle is on its way to becoming a world class city with tourists flocking to our waterfront. Great job WSB. Loved the video.”

    In what way does getting rid of the 2nd largest traffic throughput (for North – South) in the city make us a world class city? I already KNOW Seattle to be a “world class city”, it’s why I moved here from Alaska in the first place.

    I didn’t lose anything, the CITY is currently losing a major transportation route. That’s never good and it’s only going to create more traffic and more problems. Replacing a 3 lane transit route with a 2 lane route is NOT helpful. Less lanes = more traffic. Sorry but this isn’t rocket science here.

    I must again touch back to the “Seattle is ON IT’S WAY to becoming a world class city” bit. You obviously don’t think we already are. Shame on you… Again, dropping transportation routes does not in any way make something world-class, it just puts more cars on surface streets and creates more congestion. I don’t want our amazing city to become LA but you seem to agree with the concepts they use to plan and develop their transit systems. Well, please move to LA then. I’m sure they’ll always be happy to take a few more jerks like you.

  • redblack October 29, 2011 (9:25 pm)

    marie jeanne: actually, we all lost.
    other than the giant starter pit for the tunnel boring machine – which will be a huge pain in the butt to get around – the waterfront is going to look exactly the same until 2016, when the tunnel opens.
    at that time, the rest of the viaduct gets torn down.
    then SDOT can get started on rebuilding the seawall.
    the waterfront is going to be a mess for another 9 or 10 years.

  • I. Ponder October 29, 2011 (9:27 pm)

    Start tolling now so people can get used to it.

  • getwithit October 29, 2011 (10:31 pm)

    If you live your live in such a way that a road closure affects you in any way, your life is useless.

  • wscommuter October 29, 2011 (11:18 pm)

    J242 … that you resort to calling people “jerks” on this blog demonstrates your lack of class. This blog deserves better. Go to some other blog if you feel it necessary to call people names.

    More to the point, you reveal yourself as someone not to be taken seriously.

    Revamping the existing viaduct would have resulted in a seismically vulnerable structure only marginally more safe than the current one. Simple truth.

    Through-put remains the same as between the DBT and the current viaduct … the Battery St. Tunnel is only 2 lanes, as with the DBT. But we lose two downtown exits. Yup … its true. We’ll adapt … not that big a deal … except to a few of the anti-DBT folks who continue to complain about it. Your right … but the rest of us have moved on. We’ll be alright. Chill.

  • Galit October 30, 2011 (1:21 am)

    I see a lot of angry power poles during this commute.

  • velo_nut October 30, 2011 (6:44 am)

    Typical Seattle driver… What ever happened to Stay right unless to pass?


  • John October 30, 2011 (8:50 am)

    J242: While it would have been nice to rebuild a viaduct or a cut and cover tunnel to handle the same traffic capacity as the existing roadway, there were so many factions to deal with politically.

    The prime advantage of the deep bore tunnel is that traffic can use the existing viaduct, albeit a narrower one until the tunnel is complete.

    The alternative would have been having no viaduct at all if the structure was demolished and replaced with a new viaduct or cut and cover tunnel. Would you have like that?

    I think the true message going forth is to find as many ways to reduce usage viaduct and I-5 if your destination is Downtown Seattle, and to find means for buses to travel unencumbered to the city center, since the transit model here is predicated on having the city center be the transit hub.

  • Mike October 30, 2011 (9:24 am)

    J242, you’re way out of line! No problem expressing your opinion, but calling someone a jerk for expressing her’s is sleazy. We’ll see in a few years whether or not this will have the impact on traffic that many are saying.

    I’m glad that we are finally doing something other than recovering from a catastrophe that we would have faced when the viaduct collapsed in a big earthquake.

    Speaking of sleazy, I have to say riding along Alaska Way last week and looking across the sections that had been demolished, I can see how not having the two story blight on our city might actually make our waterfront a place that I’d want to take my family and out of town visitors more often. Funny, I’m not a multimillion dollar fat cat using my wealth to influence law makers, just someone who can see how having an important part of our city more beautiful and accessible to walking, shopping, eating out, etc, might make Seattle more “world class.”

  • datamuse October 30, 2011 (9:28 am)

    velo_nut: in my experience, it’s stopped at the state line.

  • sam-c October 30, 2011 (10:02 am)

    the lanes really are narrow in the re-routed section. it is funny that Potter construction was the 2nd car down the new viaduct…. our first trip south on the viaduct was last night, around 10:30pm. we made the trip alongside a Potter construction truck. the lanes are either too narrow for a standard size work truck, or else the jersey barriers create such a ‘yikes!’ feeling for drivers that they wander over the dividing line so they are not too close to the barriers. it was a little freaky and I thought we were going to get side-swiped. it will be a trying few years with this little detour. remember 25 mph at that section!

  • wescatle October 30, 2011 (12:24 pm)

    My response to J242- (Tracy I’ll save you the trouble) This comment has been removed

  • Diane October 30, 2011 (12:57 pm)

    agree sam-c; I can’t imagine how a work truck and city bus can travel side by side in those very narrow lanes; scary

  • Rosanne October 30, 2011 (1:56 pm)

    All the pro-tunnel folks need to remember that a lot of people voted against it. We aren’t happy with the decisions that our elected officials chose. Traffic is already a nightmare, this just makes it war. My family is reluctantly moving out of West Seattle, we love the community & people here, but the commute just plain sucks. I wonder how much West Seattle house values will plummet when the tunnel comes and commuters start paying $2,400 a year in tolls. Who will want to live here when our means of getting into downtown are getting smaller & more crowded?

  • J242 October 30, 2011 (2:21 pm)

    To all those calling me out of line for suggesting someone is being a jerk, keep in mind the tone of her original comment please…

    “Get over it J242. It’s done. You lost. Seattle is on its way to becoming a world class city with tourists flocking to our waterfront. ”

    I find that insulting and it sounds like a jerky thing to say.

    To Mike: “Funny, I’m not a multimillion dollar fat cat using my wealth to influence law makers, just someone who can see how having an important part of our city more beautiful and accessible to walking, shopping, eating out, etc, might make Seattle more “world class.””

    Sorry, I already find the waterfront very accessible to walking, eating out, etc as do the THOUSANDS of people down there anytime the sun is out. This one comes down to personal preference but the added traffic filling up our streets and I-5 certainly are going to make it more difficult to travel through the city. How does that help anything? I’ve asked repeatedly and no one can answer that. Less roads (in a growing city) = more traffic problems which in turn hurts the local economy.

    ” Who will want to live here when our means of getting into downtown are getting smaller & more crowded?”

    Exactly Rosanne! People are being incredibly short-sighted about this. Less options = more traffic problems. Period. It’s a bad thing.

    To John’s “The alternative would have been having no viaduct at all if the structure was demolished and replaced with a new viaduct or cut and cover tunnel. Would you have like that?”

    No, read my comments above in response to @metrognome… A sectional stabilization system of arches built to support the current viaduct is one MASSIVE first step. From there, you ensure the arches are affixed to load-bearing plates section by section (no demolition required at all yet) and then individually on low-traffic late night shifts you replace the current roadway with sectional parts bonded to the load bearing plates which are supported by the criss-crossing arches. It’s simple, efficient, much safer for earthquakes and FAR less expensive than the tunnel option plus it wouldn’t require drastic week long closures like what we just had. Just 9pm to 4am closures…

    They could even build the viaduct to handle MORE traffic that way if they so desired. On top of that, local artists could be commissioned for prints wrapping the support arches adding more local flavor to the entire thing. All around a better plan in every possible way but that was thrown right out at the beginning. Can’t hire a company to use a big spiffy automated tunneler if you do something much more simple now can we?

  • J242 October 30, 2011 (2:29 pm)


    “Revamping the existing viaduct would have resulted in a seismically vulnerable structure only marginally more safe than the current one. Simple truth.”

    Never looked into the concept of load bearing weights and how shifting weight sources are more structurally sound than unmoving structures have you? An arch is far more structurally sound than any bottom tower supported structure. The space needle wouldn’t be 1/10th as sound if it stood straight up and didn’t have arched supports hooking down below and outward from it’s base.

    Multiple criss-crossed arches shift and balance the weight far more effectively. That’s simple structural engineering. It’s also the current argument for why the tunnel with be safer. It’s all arch support with weight distribution equally over the entire shell of the tunnel. Do you honestly believe it’s magically safer? Same exact reason, just the more expensive (and limiting) option with no off or on ramps into downtown and tolls along with less lanes. That’s just not smart engineering and it’s REALLY bad from an urban development view.

  • seattlecris October 30, 2011 (2:35 pm)

    The best part is still there… the views and all. And I agree with Mike.. not only will it be prettier it will be QUIETER on the waterfront. Gads the viaduct is loud.

  • Jasperblu October 30, 2011 (2:49 pm)

    The videos were very helpful! Thanks WSB!

  • SaraJeanQueen October 30, 2011 (3:39 pm)

    Helpful videos, thanks WSB. I agree with J242 in that the two lanes are problematic… really? They couldn’t make it 3 lanes on the ground!?
    Maybe I’m not informed enough or really missing something, but I don’t see why they put all that work into creating a new section without keeping the same amount of space for traffic.

    • WSB October 30, 2011 (3:41 pm)

      The ground area of the bypass goes around where the tunnel-digging will begin, I believe. They need a LOT of room for that.

  • nmb October 30, 2011 (3:53 pm)

    @WSB, I’m curious about the 3 old columns they left standing, that appear on the right starting at 3:09 in your northbound drive video. Are they reusing those for the flyover that will be built at Royal Brougham? They appear to be aligned with the new columns that have been built on the left side. I wouldn’t think the old columns would live up to the safety standards being used in the design of the new structures (but maybe I’m wrong).

    • WSB October 30, 2011 (4:16 pm)

      NMB, I don’t believe parts of the structure are being reused … demolition work isn’t over yet. They actually did more during the closure than they had expected to be able to, Matt Preedy told us at the media briefing on Friday – his entire 16 minutes of statement/Q&A is in our video: – but they’re not done with demolition work. That was the most interesting part of the northbound drive.

  • nmb October 30, 2011 (4:41 pm)

    I know that demolition is still going on, but it seems odd that they would not have taken those columns down yet, since to do so would require that they close SR-99 *again* (they are only a couple feet from the detour road).
    I also just drove by the columns again and noticed that each of these 3 columns has the word “SAVE” written on them in big block letters with safety-orange spray paint.
    But then again, reviewing WSDOT’s video simulation of when the tunnel is complete, there’s no way they could keep those columns given that the second new overpass will be immediately adjacent to the one they just completed.

    • WSB October 30, 2011 (4:44 pm)

      I’ll ask WSDOT tomorrow (if someone with the definitive answer doesn’t happen by here tonight).

Sorry, comment time is over.