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Seattle, WA
Bertha, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and Mario Kart Tunnel Under Seattle

By TJ McCueSunday, July 13, 2014
3D Design, CAD, Construction, Engineering, Infrastructure

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The biggest thing about the Seattle Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project is not that a large, two level, above-ground freeway will be completely removed. It is not that there will be a new, relatively quiet tunnel for cars, trucks and buses to pass through the city. It is that more than nine acres of public space land will be reclaimed and a new waterfront park created that will make Seattle’s waterfront one of the most beautiful in the world.

Getting a grasp on what this new area is going to look like, I spent some time with Steve Johnson, Design Visualization Manager for Parsons Brinckerhoff, who took me through how they create visualizations in 3ds Max 3D modeling software, based on CAD data, to create simulations and modeling of what consumers would see and experience with the new traffic patterns from the Viaduct replacement.

The morning was filled with lots of good stops and sights, but the most interesting revolved around what Steve shared -- a few of the videos he and his team have created. You can see them just below – one is a rather frightening idea – if a large earthquake occurred in Seattle with the fires and devastation likely to occur, resulting in a pretty emotional pull for why the Viaduct needed to be replaced.

The second video is a friendly “fly under” of the project and area, no earthquake or fires, but a good animation of how an engineering team would look at the tunnel work.

The last visualization received a bit of press. Someone had a little fun hacking the video. The original video showed how the Alaskan Way Viaduct detour would look so that area residents could understand the new traffic pattern.

The West Seattle Blog reported that Mike S. made the new video where Nintendo’s Super Mario cruises around Seattle in his Mario Kart vehicle. Here’s what Mike S. had to say: “I was really impressed with the video produced by WSDOT showing how the commute into Seattle would look after the nine-day closure. However, I still felt it could be improved – with the addition of Super Mario, in his Mario Kart – so I made some modifications.”

If you are visiting Seattle or just want more info on the project, visit the Milepost 31 information center, located in Pioneer Square. From the website:

“Milepost 31 is an award-winning information center that highlights the people and projects that shaped Pioneer Square, and provides an inside look at the SR 99 Tunnel Project. There, you'll find more than just construction photos and brochures. You’ll find history, artifacts and interactive exhibits designed to broaden your understanding of the land beneath you. You’ll explore the neighborhood’s changing landscape, from earth-moving efforts of the past to the massive tunnel project that will soon move State Route 99 underground and reconnect Pioneer Square to the waterfront.”

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