Ramp's destruction is beginning of the end for viaduct

Ramp's destruction is beginning of the end for viaduct »Play Video
Observers look on as the First Avenue South on-ramp to the Alaskan Way viaduct is torn down.
SEATTLE - After a decade of talk, the nearly 60-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct span is finally coming down.

The first chunk of the old double-decker highway was demolished overnight. Gone is the First Avenue South on-ramp for northbound viaduct traffic.

For those who used the on-ramp, the demolition presents a temporary inconvenience - in exchange for a permanent improvement.

Some people came to watch the all-night demolition, including Seattle City Council member Jean Godden, who said it's good riddance to the aging viaduct.

"Decrepit, deteriorating, falling down aerial freeway that shouldn't have been built in the first place," she said.

For nearly six decades the city's front porch has been blocked by the concrete highway.

"I'm excited about freeing our waterfront," said Godden. "Seems to me this will make it possible for the city
to have a front door to have a face for the world."

Others got nostalgic watching the on-ramp come down before their eyes. The old viaduct has been a part of the city's history for nearly 60 years.

Tearing down and replacing on-ramps is the first step of the demolition. Eventually the viaduct's mainline will come down too. The state plans to replace it with a bored tunnel.

"It symbolizing progess, definitely," says one man who was on hand to watch the ramp demolition, which shook the earth as it came down.

The last time the earth shook like this in Seattle was 10 years ago this month.

Parts of Pioneer Square were buried in concrete, rebar and bricks. Engineers say the viaduct cannot withstand another earthquake - it has to come down.

"I don't want to go through that again," says Councilman Tom Rasmussen.

Daylight reveals what's left of the First Avenue South on-ramp. In six weeks, just in time for baseball season, drivers will get a new on-ramp.

The ramp shutdown allows crews to remove underground utilities and build detours to ready for the day the viaduct's mainline comes down.

Transportation Department officials concede it will get congested, but look at it as a temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement.

"We are going to have the best waterfront on the West," Rasmussen says.

All this activity comes just days after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn vetoed an agreement that approves a city and state partnership to build the tunnel.

The City Council is expected to override the mayor.