Tunnel Under Downtown Seattle Opens to Traffic

The tunnel replaces the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will be demolished.

The Washington State Department of Transportation opened the 2-mile Highway 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle on Feb. 4, giving drivers a new way to travel between the famous Space Needle and the stadiums. The tunnel replaces the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will be demolished.

"Today, we can say we've forged a new path," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Feb. 4. "From Jimi Hendrix to Bertha Knight Landes, our state's history is filled with examples of ingenuity and perseverance. The opening of this tunnel is further proof that we can overcome big challenges and create lasting change in our communities."

Traffic on day one was light because of snow overnight that cause some schools to close, the Seattle Times reported.

"This is a game changer," state Transportation Secretary Roger Millar said of the new tunnel. "Our number one goal was to remove a vulnerable structure from our highway system. Along the way, we reshaped a major transportation corridor that is a key component of the mutlimodal transportation system we and are partners are building for the Puget Sound region."

The new northbound off-ramp to Alaskan Way at the south portal won't open for one to two more weeks.

Millar said WSDOT will continue to coordinate closely with partner agencies to monitor traffic conditions and make adjustments as needed, and he asked that motorists consider sticking with alternative commute choices they may have adopted during the highway's closure before the tunnel opened. "People really stepped up and did their part during this closure," he said. "We're hoping that people discovered new ways to get around over these past few weeks and that they'll be willing to keep it up. When more people make smart commuting choices, it makes it easier for all of us."

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