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Sketched Oct. 26, 2011

I don’t use the Viaduct for my regular commute, so I can’t say I missed driving on it last week, when it closed for several days during the first phase of its demolition.
Did the hyped “Viadoom” slow you down?

What really stuck with me on a visit to the demolition zone was how many people were there in the middle of the day, just watching the construction crews chip away at the concrete and taking photos. I spent about an hour or so and saw more than a dozen people come and go.

Julie Newcombe, of Burien, had made a point to get out of her car this time after just driving by on previous days. She was upset to see the Viaduct being destroyed. It’s a mistake, she told me, because of the huge cost and because the new tunnel won’t provide access to downtown.

When asked about the Viaduct, others have told me that tearing it down is a mistake, especially when I spent a day walking under it back in September. But something makes Newcombe’s sentiment more poignant. When the 6.8 Nisqually earthquake shook it all up ten years ago, she was one of the people driving on it.
Here’s an excerpt from a story she wrote back then and shared via email:

“On Feb. 28, 2001, I was headed North on Hwy. 99 towards downtown Seattle. About 8 blocks south of the Seneca off-ramp, the left rear of my car dropped about a foot and I heard a loud clang of metal on metal. Flat tire was my first thought.

Up to that point, I had only had two flat tires in my life and one of them was on the viaduct, how could this happen to me twice!! Then the right rear slammed down equally as hard. Oh no – two flat tires – I must have driven over a whole pile of nails! Then the rear end of the car began to oscillate violently. The rear axel! That must be it. Somehow I must have broken my rear axel! I know I must sound clueless, but this all happened in about six seconds. As I was struggling to keep the car in the lane, the thought of “earthquake” did cross my mind, but I was listening to the garden show on NPR where everyone seemed to be acting as “cool as cucumbers.” I was approaching the Seneca off-ramp and decided it would be best to get off the viaduct. As I coasted down the ramp, and watched people pouring out of office buildings on First Avenue, I heard NPR’s Steve Scher calmly remark, “All right I guess we call that an earthquake.” And with the same degree of calmness, “Wow, that’s a serious earthquake.” At that point, I limped away in my ’93 Saab, glad that the only damage I had incurred was broken rear shocks to my car.”

Beth Farrow, of Seattle, said the sheer magnitude of the demolition was impressive and created an interesting scene. “It’s gorgeous … in an odd sort of way.”