Seattle’s ramps to nowhere


A popular uprising against a proposed highway through Seattle’s Arboretum in 1969 provides some of the most unique examples of abandonment in the city.  Unused roads and ramps that come to an abrupt end crisscross the marshland on the north end of the Arboretum.  Locals refer to them as the ghost ramps or ramps to nowhere.


The proposed highway would have provided another route to the 1-90/I-5 interchange, thereby easing traffic around the University of Washington.  The plan to build the R. H. Thomson Expressway was rejected by by voters in 1972 amid concerns it would destroy large parts of the Arboretum, one of Seattle’s most beautiful parks.  Part of the construction of HWY520 in 1962 included ramps and interchanges to the proposed new highway (still in the planning stages), but were ultimately abandoned after the project was permanently scrapped in 1972.  What remains are the rarest of all urban ruins, an unfinished municipal project.


Being in the area is like being surrounded by quiet, gray monoliths.  The curved off ramps twist and turn, changing elevation and sweeping across the landscape. The spaces under the bridges have been taken over by vagrants and vandals, booze and beer bottles litter the ground.  Grass and weeds invade the lower levels of the concrete pylons, blurring the line between the advance of nature and man’s hand.

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