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Scenes from the late 1980s: Looking back at the construction of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel

On March 23, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) will convert to Link light rail trains only, and bus service will be moved to surface streets. At the Archives, we’re reminiscing over these photographs of its construction, showing a glimpse of 1980s Seattle and the people who built the tunnel.

The photos below come from Series 1844: Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel project files and Series 1147: Office of Information Resource Management Printing and Graphic Arts photographs. Ask an archivist if you have any questions about any of these photographs or the other transit-related records held at the King County Archives.

Pre-Construction Survey

As construction began, Metro staff took photographs of the interior and exterior of buildings along the tunnel’s route, ostensibly to document the current condition of the structures.

Documenting Construction

During construction, thousands of photographs were taken, in a variety of formats, to document the complex work required to dig the tunnel and prepare it for service. The photographs below are from the project files and were taken by Ray Halvorson, Ed Hunter, Norm Nelson, Vic Oblas, Keith Nordlund, and Merdad Shahverdi.

Station Construction (1987)

The following photographs were taken by Norm Nelson and Vic Oblas.

Station Construction: International District (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Pioneer Square Station (1988-1989)

Station Construction: Various (1989)

Station Construction: University Street Station (1990)

The photographs below are from Printing and Graphic Arts. Photographers include Ned Ahrens, Tim Healy, and Barton L. Attebery.

Tunnel Construction

Station Construction

The people who built the tunnel

Tunnel Stations

DSTT Events

As we say bon voyage to the buses leaving the tunnel, contact the Archives for more information about the photographs above, to make an appointment to see more, or to ask an archivist about anything else related to King County history!

Digitization and description of photographs: Amanda Demeter and Danielle Coyle

Text and arrangement: Jill Anderson

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