Demolishing the Highway 99 Viaduct

Is it weird to have a favorite deathtrap?  Any time I have a visitor in Seattle, I always drive them from the airport across the Highway 99 Viaduct.  It may be a deathtrap (well… no… it definitely is a deathtrap).  It may be a huge ugly freeway cutting through the waterfront of Seattle.  It may even take longer than interstate 5.  It may not be up to any sort of code, but the thing is, it’s got that view.

Everyone knows it has to go.  In the ’96 earthquake, the damage was significant and the state has been monitoring it closely ever since.  A similar freeway in Oakland pancaked cars and people in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Something needed doing.  But still – the view.

This is the poor man’s penthouse.  The only caveat is you can only see it at 50 miles per hour out of the corner of your eye.  Oh… and also it might kill you.  This morning, demolition on the southern mile was started.  The public got a chance to take a look from the top before it all comes down.  What you see is a freeway that probably outlived it’s useful life many years ago.

Through the expansion joints, you can see the lanes below.  Concrete worn smooth and metal chipped and rusting is the name of the game.

Construction crews are wasting no time here.  Even as people are strolling the deck, demolition is on.  I’m not sure what these guys were up to, but it was taking them a whole crew to do it.  Farther down, the bulldozers are rolling:

They’ve got 9 days to tear down the southern mile and reconnect a bypass route that traffic will be using until the end of 2015 as scheduled.  Since our wonderful political establishment has decided that the viaduct replacement will be the largest diameter deep bore tunnel ever built (like… in the world), the chances of things going as scheduled aren’t great.  Cross your fingers and hope for no earthquakes before 2017 or so.

Behind the temporary parking lot, they hung a huge banner from the viaduct.  Right in front of it, the jaws of death loom.  I thought that was fitting, but a little macabre.  So it goes.

Welcome to the Thunderbird Motel

Aurora Avenue seems like it probably has a storied past.  These days, the story is urban highway and blighted business districts.  At one time, it seems like everyone decided it would be a great place to build glorious old-timey motels.  Back before the Motel 6s and Holiday Inns, everyone had cool names and even better signs.  At present, most of those places are out of business, but some remain, and better yet, they haven’t torn down the relics quite yet.  I don’t think they’ll last long, so this will be the first in a series of what is left.  All of these are on Aurora Ave N (State Route 99) north of downtown Seattle.  First up, the Thunderbird Motel.

thunderbird motel, aka fremont inn

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Most recently, this place was actually called the Fremont Inn, but I’ll defer to the huge neon thunderbird.  This was actually one of the first of the motels to be forcibly shut down under the nuisance laws.  I can’t say I’m sad that it isn’t up and running but I hope they turn it into something worthwhile instead of just another vacant lot or hole in the ground.

I think it’s safe to say, this place has seen better days.

Thunderbird Motel, fenced and vacant