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How Seattle Is Reclaiming Its Waterfront From an Elevated Urban Highway

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is coming down, and a vast new park system is coming up.
A rendering of pedestrian areas planned for the Seattle waterfront.
A rendering of pedestrian areas planned for the Seattle waterfront.Courtesy of Friends of Waterfront Seattle

The debates cities have over tearing down elevated urban highways can be intense—what with opponents preying on commuter nightmares of crippling traffic, despite much evidence to the contrary—but deciding for removal can open up a world of opportunities for long lost public space. Just ask Seattle.

It’s been a few years since the city started to demolish the double-decker Alaskan Way Viaduct that severs downtown from Elliott Bay. And it’ll be several more until the job is done. But Seattle is already making progress on the multi-part, billion-dollar waterfront plan that will recapture acres of prime area that have lived in the shadows of the road for half a century.