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Thousands celebrate new traffic tunnel in Seattle with race

In this long-exposure photo taken Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, headlights and taillights of Alaskan Way Viaduct traffic lines the highway ahead of an upcoming closure of the roadway, as the city’s sports stadiums are seen in the distance, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
In this long-exposure photo taken Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, headlights and taillights of Alaskan Way Viaduct traffic lines the highway ahead of an upcoming closure of the roadway, as the city’s sports stadiums are seen in the distance, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Associated Press

SEATTLE – Seattle began a three-day goodbye party Saturday for an aging, double-decker viaduct that’s served as a main artery for commuters for decades.

The 2.2-mile Alaskan Way Viaduct, which carried about 90,000 vehicles a day, will be replaced by a four-lane tunnel that’s set to open to traffic on Monday. Officials say tearing down the viaduct, damaged in a 2001 earthquake, will allow Seattle to reimagine its waterfront with new parks, paths and other amenities.

Commuters opened the weekend festivities with an 8K race that took participants through the new tunnel and over the viaduct.

Other weekend events include a viaduct walk, bike ride, art fair, science, technology and engineering activities and food trucks.

The celebration marks the end of three weeks of a commuting nightmare after transportation officials closed the viaduct to realign the highway into the new tunnel. The closure became known as the “Seattle Squeeze” and forced thousands of residents to change their commuting patterns and methods.

More than 29,000 people showed up for the 8K run on Saturday morning.

Runner Aziva Henderson told KING-TV that she decided at the last minute that she wanted to take part in the race because she will miss the sweeping view from the top of the double-deck viaduct.

“I love it when I am coming back into town, and you are up high and you can see the whole city,” said Henderson.

The tunnel is slated to open to traffic in time for the Monday morning commute.

It will take several hours for crews to do a final sweep of the tunnel before it opens, and a specific opening time has not been released.

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