Celebration planned to say hello to new SR 99 tunnel, goodbye to viaduct

VIDEO: Celebration in February for new SR 99 tunnel

SEATTLE — The weekend of Feb. 2-3, people will have their first chance to walk inside the new State Route 99 tunnel and their last chance to walk on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The city of Seattle and Washington Department of Transportation are expecting up to 100,000 people for the celebration.

They’re encouraging people to register now.

There's an 8K fun run Saturday and a bike ride Sunday. On both days, people will be able to tour the tunnel and walk on the Viaduct.

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“I know they're a little sentimental about the viaduct,” WSDOT engineer David Sowers said Thursday.  “Us engineers aren't as sentimental, but certainly it'll be a great opportunity for people to walk the viaduct one last time.”

The 2001 Nisqually earthquake damaged the viaduct and that led to the decision to bore a two-mile tunnel under Seattle for Highway 99.

The new toll tunnel will open to traffic sometime in the week after the celebration, depending on the weather.

Organizers expect a similar event to when the 520 Bridge reopened after improvements in April 2016. Roughly 30,000 people attended the event on the bridge. But there were some issues. People complained it took two and a half hours to get off the bridge.

“I think we have learned some lessons from the 520 grand opening,” WSDOT spokesperson Steve Peer said Thursday.

To better prepare, they created 99stepforward.com. There you can register for free tickets and sign up for specific times to get priority. The celebration is mostly funded through sponsors and fees for the bike ride and fun run. The first 5,000 people to sign up for those get a discount.

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