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Part of Seattle tunnel to be unearthed in coming weeks

A part of the new tunnel under Seattle you've never seen, and probably never heard of, will be unearthed when State Route 99 is shutdown in January.

You've been driving over them for years and probably didn't know it - the ramps which will soon lead into the new State Route 99 tunnel under Seattle. The soon to be revealed ramps were built in 2014 and buried.

On January 11, State Route 99 will shut down through Seattle as the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close, and final construction connecting the existing road system to the Seattle tunnel begins.

Those buried on-ramps are part of that construction since the detour that connects the existing viaduct traffic to the southern parts of SR 99 runs right over the top of them.

Also see | Here's what still needs to happen before the Seattle tunnel can open

The ramps are filled with giant blocks of what’s called Geo-Foam, which is used in highway construction. The Geo-Foam is what’s been holding up the road filled with cars, buses, and heavy trucks, and we’re betting you haven’t even noticed.

But what happens after January 11?

The detour will be cut through allowing those Geo-Foam blocks to be removed. Most of the ramp is already there, but some additional walls need to be finished with new concrete, according to David Sowers, deputy program administrator for the Alaskan Way Replacement Program.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Seattle, and King County Metro are telling people to brace themselves for the most significant traffic shutdown in Seattle history. The closure will last three weeks until the targeted opening of the tunnel on February 4.

Also see | Getting around the SR 99 closure

Twenty additional buses will be on standby to add extra capacity during the closure. The Seattle Department of Transportation is encouraging employers to allow workers flexible schedules, if not allowing them to work entirely from home.

But there is some good news, WSDOT says it won’t begin charging tolls in the tunnel until the summer of 2019.

More Seattle tunnel coverage:

- SR 99 traffic projected to spike when tunnel opens in Seattle

- SR 99 tunnel toll rates will range from $1 to $2.25 in Seattle

- Seattle tunnel hits 'very important milestone' as state takes control

- 3-week Viaduct closure coming ahead of Seattle tunnel opening

- Seattle tunnel tested for full-scale emergency

- Seattle tunnel delays: Why the project is 3 years late

- How tunnel delay could impact Seattle's waterfront