Infrastructure & Environment

August 2013 Last Look: Seattle's Ramps to Nowhere

Seattle's so-called "ramps to nowhere" will be torn down in 2014.
by | August 2013
 

In 1972, the Seattle City Council stopped construction on the ambitious R.H. Thomson Expressway after massive public outcry against the project. It would have connected Highway 520 to Martin Luther King Way, essentially circling the city or, as protestors at the time decried, strangling it. It was the city’s “Jane Jacobs moment,” according to Seattle journalist Knute Berger of Crosscut.com. It was the moment Seattleites chose density over parking lots and neighborhoods over freeways. But construction had already begun on the expressway, leaving several portions of unfi nished highway north of downtown Seattle. Over the years, these “ramps to nowhere” became diving platforms for swimmers, playgrounds for skateboarders and shelter for the homeless. Generations have jumped from one unused 38-foot-high overpass into a 12-foot-deep creek below. But now the ramps are coming down. The Washington Department of Transportation announced in January that the ramps will be demolished between 2014 and 2016, as part of the $4.1 billion 520-bridge replacement.

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