Ambitious plan envisions 'lidding' I-5 to create new land in downtown Seattle

Photo by Aaron Wells

SEATTLE - A major project proposed for downtown Seattle would reclaim some of the land lost in the 1960s, when Interstate 5 divided the city.

The proposal envisions putting a "lid" over I-5 downtown - that is, building a massive steel and concrete overpass on top of the freeway trench.

Proponents of the plan have a slogan to advance the idea: "Today a city divided. Tomorrow a city united."

I-5 is already partly lidded. A lid currently supports Freeway Park and part of the downtown convention center.

The group called Lid I-5 says additional reclaimed land could be used for parks, schools and affordable housing. And the proposal is gaining momentum.

City Council member Sally Bagshaw is among the supporters of an expanded lid, writing on her website that it would create 20 acres of new public land downtown.

"Re-imagining how we can reconnect our neighbors along I-5 is within our grasp," she wrote. "Lidding provides us with a tried-and-true way to create new public space while reducing the noise and pollution which spills into neighborhoods."

A feasibility study for placing a lid on I-5 will begin in early 2019.At the same time, the state Department of Transportation is looking at ways to reduce seismic vulnerabilities on I-5 in downtown Seattle, which could dovetail with the lidding effort.

The Lid I-5 campaign does not say how much it would cost to cover all of I-5 through downtown. It does estimate lidding the 12 acres between Denny Way and Madison would cost about $265 million.

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