On Sunday, pedestrians replaced cars in a soon-to-disappear part of Seattle. The Battery Street Tunnel, located just northeast of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, shut down to motor vehicles and welcomed foot traffic on March 5.
The tunnel walk was a public art initiative called b’End Tunnel, which celebrated the Battery Street Tunnel in its last years of service. The tunnel has carried SR-99 traffic through Seattle for 65 years, but as soon as Bertha’s dig wraps up, the old Battery Street tunnel will take a permanent retirement. Aaron Asis and Project Belltown thought that such a long-entrenched part of city deserved a fun, intimate send-off.
“Walk the Battery is opportunity for the public to physically access a unique piece of Seattle’s infrastructural history—past, present and future,” b’End Tunnel stated. “We hope this walking event inspires new conversation about the history, legacy, and fate of the Battery Street Tunnel”
About 150 people showed up to explore the normally automobile-only tunnel—you can see the Seattle P.I.’s pictures of the event here. (Second and third photos here from the Seattle P.I.)
I’ll offer my own praise for the Battery Street Tunnel: it let communities be communities. The tunnel routed cars beneath the surface, so aboveground, neighborhoods stayed intact, shopping and commercial districts formed organically, and the city felt whole and intact. For a negative example of how things could have happened, just look east to the I-5 chasm that makes Capitol Hill feel like an island. Neighborhoods were broken up when the interstate moved in, and the local community feel has never quite returned.
Battery Street Tunnel pushed commuting belowground so people could prioritize relationships with their city and their neighbors—and that’s a goal I’ll always stand behind. Community comes first.