Currently, the Seattle area has a fairly good network of streets and highways.
The second most important north-south highway through Seattle (second to Interstate 5) is state route 99 (formerly US 99). SR99 enters Seattle from the north using Aurora Avenue North, then at the north part of the downtown area it goes underground into the Battery Street Tunnel following under Battery Street southwesterly to the waterfront, where it surfaces onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a two-level elevated structure that follows parallel to Alaskan Way southwesterly beyond the downtown area.
The Viaduct was built in the early 1950s and in the past decade or so has shown signs of deterioration and has needed increased maintenance. In 2001 there was a major earthquake (the Nisqually Earthquake) that caused some minor damage to the Viaduct and also caused parts of it to sink up to a few inches in places. Engineers from the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have expressed concern that the Viaduct could be seriously damaged or even collapse in the event of another major earthquake and urge replacement.
During the past few years there has been an ongoing controversy over how to deal with the Viaduct issue. Many people are in favor of retaining a viaduct along the waterfront, either by renovating the existing viaduct or by tearing it down and replacing it with a new viaduct.
Construction is now underway on a tunnel that will replace the Viaduct. The tunnel will be under part of Downtown Seattle and after opening of the tunnel to traffic, the Viaduct will be torn down.
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©2003 Robert M. Fleming Jr.
This page was last updated on 8 May 2016.