Timetable Pushed Up On Alaskan Viaduct Retrofit Study

Timetable Pushed Up On Alaskan Viaduct Retrofit Study »Play Video
SEATTLE - They say it takes one to know one. And in the case of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and earthquakes that saying is proving to be true.

After seeing the way the viaduct reacted to last week's earthquake, the state Department of Transportation is moving up a study on whether to rebuild or retrofit the road.

It was going to take 18 months to complete, now they want it done in 10.

'A Wake Up Call'

"The earthquake was a real wake up call for a lot of people," said Carol Hunter a Transportation Planner.

A 1995 study determined the 48-year-old viaduct could not withstand a 7.5 earthquake. The structure was built on wet, loose fill land and it wasn't built strong enough.

"The bridge was designed in the 1950's for earthquake loads one-sixth of what we build for now," said DOT Engineer Chuck Ruth.

So when a quake does hit, the land below is prone to liquefaction while the pillars above will likely crumble.

10 Years To Implement Solution

Since that study was released, the state launched a second study to figure out if they should retrofit the viaduct for $460 million, or just build a whole new one for about the same money.

That study was to be finished by summer of 2002. Now, they're rushing that because whatever the department decides, it will likely take 10 years to complete the project.

Can we wait 10 years?

"I don't know," Hunter said. "I can't predict the next earthquake. I know there's a lot of concern about the next one coming and that's why we're trying to speed this study up so that we know what we can do."

And they will be able to present it to the State Legislature for funding during their next session. Because even though the first study was completed six years ago, the viaduct has never had any retrofitting done to it.

DOT Engineer Chuck Ruth says that's because it's best to do all the retrofitting at once -- not in sections.

Ruth says crews will now go in and fix the one pier on the south end that cracked during last week's earthquake and secure it so it can handle full vehicle loads.

Work on the second study will begin in a few weeks.