Take a drive down memory lane with the historical story of the Alaskan Way Viaduct

Alaskan Way Viaduct under construction (WSDOT Photo)

SEATTLE -- As we say goodbye to the Alaskan Way Viaduct Friday, did you know the Viaduct was almost some 10-20 years older than it is today?

The story of the viaduct begins more than a decade before it opened. When the seawall along the Seattle waterfront was finished in in the mid-1930s, drivers discovered Alaskan Way was great bypass around downtown. But businesses on the waterfront hated the traffic, and demanded a solution.

Transit leaders came up with the idea of a viaduct. But the Great Depression and World War II had put those plans on hold.

WSDOT says by 1947, a new traffic study said Seattle needed two new north/south highways -- one along the waterfront, and another just east of downtown.

That eastern highway would eventually become Interstate 5, built in the 1960s. But the double-decker Alaskan Way Viaduct was built first because it was cheaper, and the city already owned a lot of the land needed.

There was a lot of arguing between city and business leaders a lot of changes were made to the original route. The first plan had the elevated portion going all the way to Spokane Street.

But most of the fighting was over what it would look like, with some architects warning it would be an ugly concrete beast overshadowing the waterfront, yet others saying the dramatic views at freeway speed would make the viaduct a tourist attraction.

On April 4, 1953, a giant grand opening party was held for the new 6-lane freeway, and it was an instant hit with commuters. The following year, the Battery Street Subway opened -- now known as the Battery Street Tunnel.

For the first time, drivers could zoom down Aurora Avenue and right through Downtown Seattle without stopping.

But for some people, the love of the viaduct didn't last long. By the 1970s, there was already talk of tearing it down. But it was damage from the 6.8 Nisqually Quake in 2001 that sealed the viaduct's fate. It still took another 10 years to come up with the tunnel plan to replace it.

In 2011, the south end of the viaduct was torn down to start the massive tunneling machine named Bertha boring a new freeway underground.

And now the end has come for what's left of our Highway 99 in the sky. Once the highway of the future, soon to be a road from the past. The new Highway 99 of the future is expected to open in early February.

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