Viaduct demolition will last about 6 months, bringing disruption and noise

SEATTLE - The Alaskan Way Viaduct will shut down Jan. 11, marking the longest major highway closure ever in the Puget Sound region.

The new State Route 99 tunnel will replace the viaduct sometime the week of Feb. 4 and is expected to be a safer option for commuters.  But the transition will result in big traffic backups.

Besides the traffic, it will impact many people who work and live close to the viaduct.

The waterfront, one of the state’s busiest tourism spots, has always been loud and it’s about to get even louder.

“Some anxiety, as you can see the restaurant overhangs the viaduct,” Cutters Crabhouse general manager Steve Medalia said.

Cutters is worried about customers staying away during the 6 month long demolition process as 1.4 miles of the viaduct comes down section by section with many people living and working so close.

The old building Cutters is in sits about 3 feet away from the viaduct.

“Are we going to lose a window? Is there going to be a break in the foundation?” Medalia wondered.

But the contractor, Kiewit, a company that has worked on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the 520 Bridge, says it is confident everything will go well in the heart of downtown Seattle.

“When we get really close to buildings we will actually be saw cutting the concrete out so we take it out in a bigger piece,” Phil Wallace, Sr. with Kiewit said.

The other parts of the viaduct will be crushed.

“We will actually put the bedding on the floor of the viaduct to protect any of the utilities,” Wallace said.

WSDOT says crews will start at the Columbia Street on-ramp, then go north.

Crews will pulverize 2 to 3 block sections of the viaduct at a time, lasting about 30 days for each section.

“It won’t be like the demolition of the Kingdome when the entire structure came down in 17 seconds,” Brian Nielsen of WSDOT said.

There is too much infrastructure and logistics at stake.

“There are a handful of individual who are being relocated,” Nielsen said.

Not because WSDOT is worried about structural damage but they need some people to relocate so they can access the buildings.

Cutters Crabhouse won’t have to relocate, they will have front row seats to it all.

“The biggest thing is going to be noise, dust,” Medalia said.

Medalia says the section of the viaduct in front of their restaurant is scheduled to be taken down in the month of June, a peak tourism month. Medalia is worried about the disruption it will cause to the business and looks forward to when it is all done.

By August all the noise and dust will be gone along with the viaduct changing the look of the waterfront and Seattle for good.

During the demolition process, the waterfront will be open for business including Alaskan Way, the ferry terminal and Pike Place Market.