Man, 85, who helped build Alaskan Way Viaduct, travels it one last time

SEATTLE -- The Alaskan Way Viaduct closes permanently on Friday, Jan. 11, at 10 p.m., but for one local family, the viaduct is more than a roadway. It’s part of their family history.

“So how many passes do you think you made on that bridge?” asked Monti Darnell to her father as they walked along the Seattle waterfront.

“Quite a few,” replied her father, Warren Petersen.

Their walks along the waterfront for this father and daughter have been happening for decades.

“We were always down on the waterfront and always had an interest in this,” said Darnell.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct, a 2.2 mile double-decker structure which carries traffic over the waterfront and links the north part of Seattle to the southern industrial area, was completed in 1953.

“It was about a year we worked down here,” said Petersen.

The 85-year-old says he specifically worked on the southern extension of the viaduct in the mid-50s, which took the roadway from Dearborn Street to just north of South Nevada Street.

“You didn’t wear a hard hat if you didn’t want to. It was kind of wild,” said Petersen about construction life back then.

He says he’s proud to have been part of building this historic highway.

“We’d go down to Ivar’s and have fish and chips,” he reminisced.

Some things, like Ivar’s, have stayed along the waterfront, but other things, like the traffic and the growth, have changed too much for Petersen to come down often anymore.

“Too many people,” said Petersen.

He made the exception on Wednesday for one last drive down memory lane.

“It was fun to come down and take him down to drive it one last time,” said Darnell.

For this family, the viaduct connects their past to their future.

“I drove the viaduct to go to work and if the traffic was bad the view was great and you could sit and enjoy the view. I’m heartbroken they’re taking it down,” said Darnell with a few tears welling up.

As Friday approaches when the viaduct closes permanently, the Petersen family has a third-generation connection to it. Warren’s grandson worked on the Bertha project, which bore the new tunnel that is replacing the viaduct. It will open to traffic in February.

“Yeah it all comes around,” said Darnell.