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October 22, 2011 at 2:24 PM

3,200 show up for commemorative viaduct walk

View “Seattleites walk on the viaduct Saturday morning” on Storify

About 3,200 people said goodbye to the southern part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Saturday with a stroll along the top deck, even as heavy machines were breaking apart a few road sections a short distance away.

The state opened the structure for a public walkabout after closing it Friday night for nine days as crews began demolition on the Sodo portion of the structure.

Someone hung a sign thanking the old highway for years of service. The central part was finished in 1953 and the Sodo part in 1959.

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Construction workers and others gather on the upper deck of the Alaskan Way Viaduct for the last time Saturday morning. The structure where they are standing will be demolished. (Photo by Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Four deck segments were torn down as of midday, said Sodo Construction Director Matt Preedy of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Allison Green, of Bellevue, was among the last people to step off the viaduct. She said her father made the viaduct’s reinforcing steel at the Bethlehem Steel Mill in West Seattle a few years after World War II.

On Friday, she said, she drove her 90-year-old mother, Roberta, back and forth on the highway before it was closed Friday night.

On Saturday, a couple men played Frisbee on the deck, a woman wearing cat ears hula-hooped, and hundreds of families took pictures with their smartphones.

A woman who goes by the name Turtle asked Matt Preedy, Sodo director for Washington State Department of Transportation, for a prying tool so she could pull up one of the old lane markers — also known as “turtles” — from the deck.

The Rat City Rollergirls and the Cossacks motorcycle-stunt team had the top deck to themselves Saturday for a half-hour, to be followed by speeches at about 1 p.m. by Gov. Chris Gregoire and other dignitaries.

After the nine-day closure, the waterfront viaduct segment will return to use for another four years, until a deep-bore tunnel and stadium interchange for the $3.2 billion project are completed by the start of 2016. Then it, too, will come down.

Traffic was heavy Saturday morning on First Avenue South because of people attending the so-called “Viadoom” celebration and a Washington State University football game at CenturyLink Field.

But the real test will come Monday, when about 90,000 daily vehicle trips that use the Sodo part of the viaduct must vanish or detour, because the highway is closed for demolition until 5 a.m. Oct. 31.

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Comments | More in General news, Traffic & Transit | Topics: Traffic, viadoom, viaduct

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