solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

So we all went downtown to walk on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and through the Battery Street Tunnel, both of which will be gone forever soon, and for the most part, honestly? Good riddance.

A lot of people are enamoured of the view, particularly from the upper deck, and while the view of Elliot Bay was nice, I'll give it that, you can get as good or better elsewhere without driving, and the way it separated downtown from the old harbour, prevented downtown from going south past Pioneer Square, and ruined dozens of blocks with the hellish noise it made were completely not worth it.

Mind you, the new tunnel they've built will be a "correct answer" for maybe another six years, tops, just like the viaduct was. (That assumes it's not obsolete already, which it should be, but might not be quite yet.) And that's one of the oddest things about this whole project, and kind of a neat parallel if you think about it.

Everyone forgets that the viaduct was the correct answer when it was planned. It really was. And it stayed that way when it was built, and for another... four to eight years, depending upon whether you start count from 1956 (northern half), or 1960 (southern half).

That's because those downtown docks were industrial loading docks, and all the buildings facing what's now the viaduct were industrial loading points, or buildings which serviced the shipping industry. Nobody - nobody - wanted to be there if you weren't working in industrial shipping.

So the viaduct got non-freight traffic up and out of the way of the trucks, and gave that part of Alaskan Way underneath the viaduct to commercial traffic. Problem solved. It was great!

...until 1964, of course. That's when containerised shipping took over, and they'd built the new docks further south at Harbour Island and all that, making the downtown docks completely obsolete, virtually overnight, and the Viaduct no longer served its intended purpose. And now that those old docks are tourist and ferries and entertainment and science, and not industrial in the slightest, the viaduct is a huge, huge minus.

At least the new tunnel won't be that. It's out of the way and not blocking anything. You'll be able to run busses in it, if nothing else. Maybe make it commercial-traffic only, eventually - that would work. But who knows? And unlike the viaduct, this project doesn't make anything structurally worse - in fact, a lot of blocks are being knit back together, particularly on the north end, but also on the south. In particular, a fatal viaduct-ramp blockage keeping downtown from expanding south past Pioneer Square will be gone, and Pioneer Square will be surrounded by downtown, not a stub at the end of it.

(Historic districts like that generally do better when they're surrounded by, rather than stuck on the end of, modern areas. 1st Avenue South, the old original "road into town" before even 99, will be back in business, and it'll be wonderful.)

I'm really looking forward to all the side-benefits, even if the tunnel itself is a waste of money. It is a marvellous feat of engineering, I'll absolutely give it that, and that has a lot going for it.

Here are a bunch of photos. I really liked taking pictures down through the huge cracks between the viaduct road decks. Yeah. It's in that bad shape. Seriously. 10cm gaps in some places, or close to it. It was bad.

Date: 2019-02-03 08:04 am (UTC)
wrog: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wrog
still a bit surprised that they're not going to try to repurpose the Battery Street tunnel for stuff. Seems like they could run buses through there or turn it into an underground mall or something.

Date: 2019-02-04 08:54 pm (UTC)
sistawendy: (skeptic coy Gorey tilted down)
From: [personal profile] sistawendy
You, I, and a whole lot of other people have expressed that wish. Shoot, I'd give it to artists. But the engineers say the power, ventilation, and drainage in the Battery Street tunnel aren't up to code.

Date: 2019-02-04 09:21 pm (UTC)
sistawendy: Me at the start of my 50th birthday party at Mokedo. Photo & makeup credit: Codee Bradley. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistawendy

Wow. That's simple enough for a phone app.

Brings back memories

Date: 2019-02-03 08:11 am (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
Reminds me of thirty years ago, when the Embarcadero Freeway, which once wrapped the downtown waterfront in a cordon of steel and concrete, was torn down following its being damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Nobody mourned its passing, and many had been craving the opening of the city to the bayfront landscape. And it was even the same sort of deal: the shipping piers, many abandoned following the containerization-driven exodus to the Port of Oakland, have been reconfigured and revitalized with all sorts of interesting stuff since then. The Embarcadero is a fun place now. Maybe that part of the Seattle waterfront will be, too. Sounds like it's already on the way.

And your excursion also brings back memories. I was living in San Francisco at the time, and in May had ridden my bicycle over to join three quarters of a million of my very close friends as we got to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge deck in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of its construction -- and put the thing under a level of stress its designers had in no way anticipated. I barely got from the San Francisco side to the south tower before I had to leave for another event -- but, due to the road closures, took advantage of the opportunity to be one of the very few people to have ridden their bike through the MacArthur Tunnel -- normally 3/4 of a mile of 45mph freeway with no non-motorized access anywhere.

Date: 2019-02-03 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] talkswithwind
Went into and out of Seattle a few times at the Amtrak station down by Pioneer Square. The train tunnel there was a bit of ancient history that lived well beyond its useful life, but was stupendously expensive to do anything about. Not having that giant concrete deck down the waterfront will be such a nice thing for the city.

Re: Why is the train tunnel useless now?

Date: 2019-02-04 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] talkswithwind
If I remember right, it was either the roof was cut short enough it couldn't handle cars with double-decker containers on 'em, or it was a massive choke-point (through single tracking, or ventilation requirements) on an extremely busy section of track. Fixing either would require taking the tunnel out of service which means building a detour before even starting work.

Date: 2019-02-03 05:26 pm (UTC)
corvi: (Default)
From: [personal profile] corvi
I enjoyed the photos, thank you for sharing. I loved the view from the viaduct, but that was as someone who occasionally went into Seattle, not a resident, so I didn't know where or how to seek out that view elsewhere.

Date: 2019-02-04 05:43 am (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Thank you for sharing the historical perspective on city planning here! So often people forget the past and the future of an area when looking at how it is used now, and that’s not only wasteful and unsustainable for planning, it’s a loss of the inherently interesting context. I shall look up some history of my new neighborhood when I have a moment and a larger screen.

Date: 2019-02-04 08:51 am (UTC)
typographer: Me on a car in the middle of nowhere, eastern Colorado, age four (Default)
From: [personal profile] typographer
Thank you so much for writing this. I had to mute several acquaintances elseweb who are insistent the viaduct should have been replaced with the bigger monstrosity that Frank Chopp was pushing back in the day.

I'm still a bit worried that the 8-lane version of the surface Alaska Way is a solution to the way things were decades ago instead of today and more importantly next decade. But yeah, I am not at all sad to see the viaduct finally go.

Date: 2019-02-04 08:52 pm (UTC)
sistawendy: (stern nun)
From: [personal profile] sistawendy
[reasons the viaduct sucked]

Hell yes. Mike McGinn had some choice comments about its environmental impact, and how current city leadership didn't say a peep about that. And oh by the way, the viaduct was a Nimitz Freeway collapse waiting to happen.

I wish the Battery Street Tunnel could have been used for something besides transportation, but the engineers said power, ventilation, and drainage aren't up to code. They're going to fill it with rubble and seal it.

Date: 2019-02-04 09:32 pm (UTC)
sistawendy: Me at the start of my 50th birthday party at Mokedo. Photo & makeup credit: Codee Bradley. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistawendy

This footage is Andy Kaufman-level goofy. I love it!

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