New $3.3-billion tunnel through downtown Seattle opens on Monday

Feb 1 2019, 9:04 pm

Seattle is hosting quite the celebration this weekend ahead of the scheduled opening of the new State Route 99 tunnel, burrowed deep beneath downtown Seattle, replacing the now-closed Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The USD $3.3-billion, 3.2-km-long, four-lane highway tunnel is set to open in time for the morning rush hour on Monday, February 4. But it will be a few more weeks until mid-tunnel ramps and portals open.

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The tunnel will be free to use for vehicles when it first opens, while tolling could begin as early as summer 2019, with rates ranging from USD$1.00 to $2.25 with a frequent user pass.

But before Monday arrives, the pre-opening celebrations on Saturday, February 2 will include an eight-km fun run and walk-throughs of the tunnel portals throughout the day. Other activities on the first day of the celebrations consist of live music, food trucks, and exhibitions.

Then on Sunday, February 3, 12,000 cyclists are slated to participate in a 20-km-long tunnel bike ride.

Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel

The stacked four-lane tunnel that will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

Alaskan Way Viaduct closure in January 2019. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

The tunnel was originally scheduled for an opening in late-2015. This was delayed due to a two-year slow up on completing tunnel boring work, which was completed in April 2017.

Following the demolition of the viaducts, the City of Seattle is expected to commence major work on a USD$700 million renewal project of its downtown waterfront, which will include a new eight-lane surface roadway and extensive public spaces that connect the city centre with the water.

Planning on the demolition and replacement of the 1950s-built viaduct began after the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that struck near Seattle in 2001. The viaduct was damaged by the earthquake, and emergency repairs were made.

According to the state government, if the 2001 earthquake had lasted several seconds longer, the viaduct could have experienced a structural failure and collapse. Close to 100,000 vehicles used the viaduct daily prior to its closure last month.

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