Steve Howell grew up in West Seattle and felt like the Alaskan Way Viaduct was his connection to the rest of the world.
He and his wife drove it on the last night it was open, but he couldn’t make it from their home in Tukwila to downtown this week when the state began giving away pieces of the 66-year-old structure.
So Shelley Howell went there for him.
“He loved the viaduct,” she said. “He loved the view, so I’m getting the biggest piece I can get and wrapping it up for him.”
Since Wednesday, hundreds of people have stopped by a little storefront on Western Avenue to claim their small chunk of the now-demolished concrete roadway that despite its flaws offered one of the city’s best views.
Among the others there on Friday were Christine Roberts and her husband, John Overmier.
They were there to get a keepsake for a friend and former Seattle Public Schools assistant principal.
“She drove it every day and felt that every morning and evening she got a bit of beauty and calmness no matter what had happened during the day,” Roberts said.
T.J. Stutman, of North Seattle, said he was picking up “a piece of history” for his children.
He had told them when they were all looking at the city from the top of the waterfront Ferris wheel that one day they would not believe there had been such a massive structure on the city’s waterfront.
Still, he had to admit, the view had been spectacular.
“When I first moved here, I commuted on the viaduct every day, and the view with the setting sun … I remember thinking, ‘If I have to be stuck in traffic, this is where I want to be.’ “
Little chunks of the ruins are available at Friends of Waterfront Seattle, at 1400 Western Ave., from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday — except Nov. 28-29, when the storefront will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. (Editor’s note: The headline on an earlier version of this story said Sunday was the last day to get a piece of viaduct rubble, but a spokesperson for the project said Monday that the giveaway is still going on.)
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) had originally said that it would not be giving away pieces of the structure, but eventually relented to the requests.
The last of the final four columns, which were on a slope north of Victor Steinbrueck Park , was taken down last week, according to a WSDOT project manager.
Most rubble from the 122,000-ton viaduct has been pulverized and poured into the defunct Battery Street Tunnel. The remainder will become fill next to its south portal or be sent to other Northwest projects.
The new Highway 99 tunnel opened Feb. 4.
Meanwhile, other crews are mobilizing to build the Alaskan Way boulevard, with wide waterfront sidewalks, two parklike lids and a bike lane by 2024. Road widths will vary from nine lanes at Colman Dock to four lanes near the Olympic Sculpture Park.
A four-lane bridge will link surface Alaskan Way uphill to Elliott Avenue in Belltown.
Beth Sellars looked sadly at the pieces of the viaduct she’d gotten for her children, their spouses and herself.
For her, the demolition of the viaduct has been a representation of many losses for old Seattle as it makes way for the new.
“It’s very sad,” she said. “We’ve lost the view we’ve all loved. I came for the final goodbye.”
Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.