New Seattle waterfront one step closer following Bertha’s breakthrough

SEATTLE — The breakthrough of the tunnel-boring machine Bertha created a palpable feeling of change coming to Seattle’s waterfront.

“It’s really loud down here, I think it’s louder than most of the rest of the city,” says Seattle resident, Denise Dumouchel.

Longtime business owner Cindy Raykovich, who owns a running gear store with her husband, agrees. She says the businesses around the Alaskan Way Viaduct have felt the change over the years. “I think the business vibe is wanting it to be done.”

The viaduct, and the construction surrounding it, is a noisy accompaniment to a stroll along the Seattle Waterfront.

Now with Bertha’s breakthrough, a path for reconstruction is opened.

“It’s palpable, you can really feel the new waterfront is coming,” says Marshall Foster, director of the Seattle Office of The Waterfront. “Everything included is $700 million dollars.”

Everything means an entire revamp of the waterfront once the viaduct is removed in early 2019.

"With it, we essentially reclaim 20 acres of parks, open space, public views, public recreation back on the waterfront," said Foster.

Renderings show designated bike lanes, improved street connections from Seattle's retail core and a plan for better traffic flow.

"We’re gonna have a four- to five-lane road here through the center of the new waterfront. It’s going to feel a lot like First Avenue," said Foster.

Foster added that the plans also creates easier access from Pike Place Market with a bridge structure that will create a park-like experience as people use it to walk directly to the waterfront.

"You won’t have to go down 100 steps and cross a busy street. It’ll be a seamless park that you walk through," said Foster.

"Anybody who is a runner in Seattle has done a race on the viaduct, your breath is taken away by how beautiful it is up there. So I’m gonna be sad that that potential view is going to be gone," said Raykovich.

The views won't be lost; several overlooks in the works provide space to take in the scenery, gather with friends, enjoy concerts, art installations and play spaces for children.

"We're not waiting for the viaduct to come down, we're doing some early projects," said Foster.

A facelift already is visible with wider walkways, new benches, and plants native to the Pacific Northwest.

"There's going to be a steady drumbeat of new reasons to be down here as we go," says Foster.

The tune of construction will linger on for the short term, as the beat builds to a long-term future of the waterfront that better connects the city together.

"It’s gonna be really lovely for people not to look above the highway or under the highway to see the water and the Olympics beyond," said Dumouchel.