What Would Seattle Look Like if I-5 Was Covered?

The "Lid I-5" effort is pushing to reconsider plans to cover the freeway that runs through downtown Seattle.

This article appears in print in the March 2018 issue. Click here to subscribe.

Scott Bonjukian and John Feit are pursuing an idea that could transform downtown Seattle: Cover the freeway that runs through it, and in doing so, limit noise and air pollution and create new land for parks, affordable housing and more.

Bonjukian, an urban designer, and Feit, an architect and chair of the Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council, are chairs of Lid I-5, a community-run advocacy group that has been urging the city to consider the plan.

So far, so good: The Washington State Convention Center (whose planned expansion will be near Interstate 5) recently awarded the City of Seattle a $1.5 million grant to study the feasibility of a lid.

“Our goal will be … to give a suite of informed options [for the lid] that can later be debated by the public,” says Feit.

Don’t expect a transformation soon: The study will take years, with construction even farther in the future, and a big price tag to grapple with. Based on other lid projects around the nation, Bonjukian estimates that lidding I-5 between Madison and Olive streets would cost $250 million, creating 10 acres of new land.

The long wait doesn’t bother them though. Says Bonjukian contentedly: “We’ve been at this two and half years....These things take a long time.” 

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