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After a weekend bidding farewell to Alaskan Way Viaduct, Seattle's new tunnel opens

Thousands of people walk through Seattle's new tunnel on Saturday, Feb. 2. The tunnel opened to traffic Monday.
Parker Miles Blohm
/
KNKX
Thousands of people walk through Seattle's new tunnel on Saturday, Feb. 2. The tunnel opened to traffic Monday.

Seattle’s new tunnel is finally open, following a weekend of festivities bidding farewell to the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“Thousands of people have worked very hard for this moment,” spokeswoman Laura Newborn said in an email Monday, “and WSDOT is pleased to announce that it’s here.”

The first car drove through the tunnel’s northbound lanes just after 11 p.m. Sunday night. And just after midnight, all ramps to and from the tunnel were open to commuters, according to a post from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The only exception to Monday's tunnel opening is the northbound off-ramp to South Dearborn Street, the post states, which will take another couple weeks to complete. Travelers from the south will experience congestion until the new ramp opens.

Commuters can watch videos to better understand the new routes. The tunnel is currently free to use, but tolls could begin as early as summer 2019. Visit WSDOT’s tolling page to learn more.

Erin Hennessey, news director at KNKX, walked the tunnel on Saturday as part of the weekend’s celebrations.

“I walked it and found it really interesting to experience on foot,” she said. “For a start, it's long — two miles end to end. And it's not straight and flat. It dips down about halfway through, near Madison Street, and then there's an obvious incline coming out of the tunnel on the south end, near the stadiums.”

Matthew D’Asaro sets up his Graflex view camera to take an image of visitors inside the 99 Tunnel on Saturday afternoon.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX
/
KNKX
Matthew D’Asaro sets up his Graflex view camera to take an image of visitors inside the 99 Tunnel on Saturday afternoon.

Hennessey has been in the KNKX newsroom since discussion about the viaduct replacement started.

“My daughter was a 1-year-old at the time,” she said. “She’ll be turning 19 this week. That’s how long it’s taken to move from debate, analysis, design options, to actually building the thing.”

So, it was only fitting that thousands of people turned out to mark the milestone.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hennessey said. “Kind of bittersweet.”

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