It’s pretty much a given that the space will be filled with rubble after Highway 99 traffic starts flowing through the new tunnel that Bertha built. Or perhaps not?

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Sketched Jan. 3, 2018

I’m standing next to the south entrance of the Battery Street Tunnel in Belltown. Traffic on the half-mile thoroughfare connecting the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Aurora Avenue seems light this early afternoon compared to the rush-hour bottlenecks that often form here.

While there’s a lot of expectation about the waterfront viaduct finally coming down next year, I feel that discussion about the future of this 65-year-old tunnel has not captivated much interest. It’s pretty much a given that the space will be filled with rubble after Highway 99 traffic starts flowing through the new tunnel that Bertha built.

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Seattle Times news artist Gabriel Campanario has been capturing Seattle's places and people in hand-drawn sketches for more than a decade. To see past columns, visit the Seattle Sketcher home page. A selection of prints is available for sale through The Seattle Times store, or you may fill out an illustration request to order a specific image.

Or perhaps not? A group of citizens has been considering some ideas to “Recharge the Battery” and give a new life to this important piece of infrastructure. They are tossing ideas like building an underground park or turning the space into a mushroom farm.

I’d like to throw my own idea into the mix. Since this is a cut-and-cover tunnel — basically, a big trench that has been roofed — what if the cover was taken off? I know, that would mean eliminating Battery Street, the road directly above the tunnel. But perhaps the cover can be removed only from some sections. Pedestrians could then come down to an underground pedestrian boulevard of shops, restaurants and other attractions. Seattle already has a popular Underground Tour — this would be a nice tie-in to that!

OK, your turn now. Is the tunnel space worth repurposing? If so, how would you “recharge the Battery”?