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What happens to the Viaduct duing a major earthquake?

Sure, we’ve all wondered while heading to the airport from Belltown. “What’s going to happen if the “big one” strikes while I’m on this old excuse for a highway”? EliseSaidSo tipped me off to a new mega earthquake simulation released by WSDOT. Shock and awe, baby.


WSDOT is not an optimistic bunch.

In 2007 we released a report that concluded there is a higher chance – specifically, a one in 10 chance in the next 10 years – of an earthquake occurring that could cause portions of the viaduct and adjacent seawall to collapse. The vulnerability analysis is available on our Web site.

A simulation based on the 2007 report demonstrates how disastrous a strong earthquake could be for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It shows what could happen if a seismic event more intense than the 2001 earthquake were to shake the Puget Sound region again. To say that the damage to the viaduct and the seawall would be severe would be an understatement.


The video is produced with a Hollywood flare. Most of the pier and seawall would slide into Elliot Bay. That’s really bad news for the souvenir shops and Red Robin. The more horrific effect would be the immediate dismantling of the Viaduct. Watch the video and just imagine how hellacious that would be. Of course, the city spent a lot of money on this simulation to scare you. But, even the possibility of this happening should be enough. Whether you’re rooting for McGinn or Mallahan (anti-tunnel or pro-tunnel) either solution should be aimed towards a replacement as soon as possible.