Contractors carefully removing viaduct sections just feet from glassy office building

VIDEO: Viaduct reaches new phase in demolition

Unlike the loud chomping and munching that's been a spectacle for months, more precise work is now underway on the Seattle waterfront to remove sections of the Alaskan Way Viaduct that are very close to a glassy new building.

The girders of the viaduct are just 4 feet from the office building at 450 Alaskan Way, while the columns are 2 feet away.

Crews worked to remove a girder section Wednesday morning by lifting it up with a crane, pulling it away from the building and setting it on the ground.

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"We're excited, but it's also definitely challenging. A lot of work, a lot of engineering, a lot of planning has gone into this," said Alex Prentiss, of Kiewit Infrastructure West, the contractor tearing down the old State Route 99 roadway for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

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Prentiss said Kiewit plans three independent engineering checks before each section is removed.

To protect it from debris, the building's ground floor is covered in plywood.

Farther up, a special coating protects the windows.

Plastic sheets keep water and slurry off the wall.

Contractors expect to finish removing the section of the viaduct directly in front of the building by the middle of next week.

Viaduct demolition work is now focused south of Yesler Way.

"By the end of summer, most of the waterfront will be clear of the viaduct, four lanes open, It will be great, it's going well," said Laura Newborn, of WSDOT.

Once the Colman Dock ferry terminal project is ready, a new pedestrian bridge will open, allowing contractors to tear down a remaining section of the viaduct at Marion Street.

They will also temporarily close traffic at some point on Dearborn Street to remove a couple of viaduct sections there, but officials say that won't happen until two lanes can be opened on Alaskan Way in each direction.

A new tunnel opened in February, replacing the earthquake-vulnerable viaduct.