Rains beat road: Interlaken Drive closed indefinitely

Water flowing underneath the pavement on Interlaken Drive appears responsible for the large cracks that closed the roadway to traffic earlier this month, city officials tell CHS. The city is still looking into the damage to determine when, if ever, the road can be reopened.

The subsurface water flow washed out supporting soil that kept the roadway structural, said Joelle Hammerstad from the Department of Parks and Recreation. After March 15 rain, the roadway moved as much as an inch in one day, leaving large cracks that appeared practically overnight. The road has been closed since the cracks were discovered.

After going over the boulevard agreement between Parks and the Seattle Department of Transportation, SDOT has now taken over the project.

Seattle Public Utilities has been working with Parks and SDOT to determine if other water sources on the hillside could have contributed to the settling. There has been a large construction project near the cracking pavement during the past year. A hillside between the Seattle Hebrew Academy and the cracked pavement appears to have had landslides in recent years. There were also several Qwest trucks working in the area in days before the cracks showed up — just after a time that included one of the rainiest periods in Seattle history. A commenter on our previous post said Qwest working to restore Internet service that had been disrupted by shifting land after following heavy rainfall.

In the 1890s, Interlaken Boulevard was a popular bicycle and buggy route from Lake Washington to Capitol Hill, according to the Parks website. In 1903, the path became part of the city’s boulevard system.

With the closure, much of Interlaken Blvd is now closed to motor vehicles and serves as a multi-use trail between 19th Ave E and 21st Ave E. In our visit earlier this week, CHS shared the road with bikers, a skateboarder speeding downhill and a woman playing fetch with her dog. Interlaken Drive branches off from Interlaken Blvd and heads south to meet E Galer St at 19th Ave E. There are no driveways or residences within the closed segment but the closure does mean a detour for a new route for people in the area used to being able to take the scenic shortcut between Montlake and north Capitol Hill.

For now, the road remains closed. If you have any doubts, neighbor Carol passes on this note and a picture of an addition to the road closure sign to clarify.

Still closed.   Qwest is finally getting around to restoring land line (how ironic!) service to a few customers in Montlake.  Lots of people’s phones were down last week.


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20 thoughts on “Rains beat road: Interlaken Drive closed indefinitely

  1. OK, I don’t mean to sound overly grumpy here – but that road is a real road, not a shortcut (which implies going through parking lots and down alleys, not on actual streets). I used it several times a day, and now my route takes me through other neighborhoods – meaning increased traffic where there are plenty of driveways, little kids, pets, and increased opportunities to hit something. Interlaken drive is, IMHO, a safer way to go. Sure, there are joggers and people walking dogs – but frankly, there are plenty of foot trails through the park that can and are used (and should be, given the tight curves and lack of sidewalks) for that purpose. The skateboarders are another thing entirely – I can’t count how many times I’ve had a close call while driving, slowly and carefully, uphill only to be surprised by some young kid with a death wish careening down around blind curves.

    As for the person playing fetch – please put your dog on a leash, or go to an off-leash park! Those of us who walk through the park with small children do not appreciate having big dogs running up to us wanting to sniff and play. I know a child who had multiple surgeries and lots of nerve damage when they were unexpectedly bitten in the face by a “friendly” dog. Please abide by Seattle law and Parks & Rec regulations and put your dog on a leash.

  2. Honestly I was surprised 10 years ago that this road was not reserved for those whom burn calories. That said, I agree with the keeping the dogs on leash. My dogs (on leash with me and my partner) have been attacked twice in the last year by dumb asses who thought it was okay to let their dogs terrorize others. I can’t bring either of them around other dogs now because it stresses them out too much :(. Honestly I am sorry your sweet driving route home is closed now.

  3. Too bad for the motorists, but they shouldn’t have been trying to drive through when the closure began anyway since I imagine the cars were just exacerbating the existing damage (people had been moving the detour signs apparently to force their way through via car).

    That said, I ride with my boyfriend up and down interlaken on the weekends and often wish the peds / dog walkers would stick to cruising on the *correct* side of the road (that is, stay to your right! just like you would in a car!). When a bicyclist or motorist has to cut left to avoid running into you, it endangers them by pushing them into the lane/direction of oncoming traffic.

    ALSO – It would be a good idea to wear some brighter/reflective clothing when going out on your evening runs! This road gets incredibly dark in the evening and runners/pedestrians/bikers in nonreflective/black gear are pretty much invisible til’ the last minute. Better to play it safe and look like a nerd in neon threads vs. being run over!

  4. AMEN! This is great. I hope the change is permanent. We have enough cars in our city. Enough streets. We don’t need cars in our parks. Just drive around. That is why you have a car, right? Humans need green space.

  5. OK, I guess some people are taught to run against traffic cuz it’s safer / you can see stuff coming – seems like a personal preference. I think either way the dark clothing is something to reconsider though :/

  6. Yeah, pedestrians generally should be going against traffic, not with it. However, in the case of Interlaken, which has several blind curves and no shoulder to speak of, when I run through there I find myself switching over to the right side as I approach certain curves (after a very careful check over my shoulder, naturally), because it is very unlikely a vehicle would see me coming around the curve from the opposite direction.

    I can’t say I’d mind it if the no cars thing was permanent.

  7. Couldn’t disagree more. Interlaken was meant to be a scenic boulevard–basically a road for people taking Sunday pleasure drives. That tradition does not exist anymore, so now it is used by commuters hoping to avoid traffic on the arterials–you know, the streets that are meant to carry the traffic. Lake Washington Blvd is in the same situation, carrying way more traffic than it was meant to ever carry and harming the experience of pedestrians and cyclists who want to enjoy nature. They should close interlaken to cars permanently.

  8. FYI, it’s the law that when no sidewalk is present, pedestrians use the left side of the road in order to face traffic. Just like its the law that bicycles stay off sidewalks.

  9. Know what you are talking about before spouting off. From the SDOT’s bike code:

    Section 11.44.120 RIDING ON A SIDEWALK OR PUBLIC PATH. Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic control devices. Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.

  10. Actually, there are a LOT of things in this city that aren’t used for their intended purpose – why zero in on this? This road is not just a scenic drive through the park – there are homes and a school there! And there ARE trails aplenty and a lovely closed-to-traffic street already, which I use as much as possible, so the traffic on this one road is really not precluding anyone’s enjoyment of nature. It’s a road for everyone to use, considerately of others, of course. And keep in mind that when I am not driving through Interlaken, I (and others) am on neighborhood streets – there’s no way to get my kids to school on arterials only – meaning a big increase in cars there. AND I have to drive farther, burning more gas, which helps no one. (And before anyone says I should stop driving, know that I try to walk whenever possible – but oftentimes my schedule precludes this, or we have to carry too much heavy stuff. Plus my kids are rather scared of walking through the woods because they’ve had bad experiences with off-leash dogs.)

  11. The most dangerous part of that area, by far, is the blind, right-angle curve about halfway between the school and the damaged area. It would be interesting to know if and how many accidents have occurred there. My guess is very few, because motorists and pedestrians alike realize how dangerous it is, and are extra careful as a result.

    I am in favor of re-opening the roadway, because walkers and joggers and cyclists already have other, traffic-free areas to use within Interlaken Park. ( For example, E Interlaken Blvd south of its intersection with Interlaken Dr E, as well as numerous paths). However, this will depend on the analysis currently being done by the geotechnical engineers from SDOT, and my guess is that they will find that it is too costly for the road to be adequately repaired.

  12. Has there been a contribution to this from run-off uphill of this site? Seem to me a lot of replantings and plastic appeared across the hillside uphill in the last year or even 6 months. Where does the water from that go? If into the ground, do the parties involved in that, or their insurers, have some role in helping to get this repaired?

  13. or, do we wait for the whole mess to slide onto the old roadway, now lovely trail/path below, ruining a streambed, potentially hurting someone or something?

  14. Jeff, I wondered about this too. That hillside was entirely composed of thick vegetation until last summer, when it was denuded (and covered with a plastic tarp) as part of a project to construct a retaining wall above the slope (presumably done by the school to protect their property from landslide).

    So, this winter, all the water falling on that area…which would have been absorbed by the hillside…is now draining down towards…you guessed it!…the area of the damaged roadway. I’m not a geotech engineer, but it’s hard to imagine this is not at least part of the problem.

  15. Really, this should be repaired and kept for use as is. Do the joggers hate the motorists? Sure. Do the people with kids hate the unleashed dangerous dogs? Yup. The answer is not to ban all groups but yours; thats absurd and myopic. People need to learn to tolerate other users, and all users need to learn to use the road in the safest way for the themselves and all other users.

    I ride my motorcycle through there regularly, in fact, it is where I largely learned to operate a motorcycle in a technically challenging environment and safe manner. It is THE BEST place in the city of seattle limits to practice the techniques for handing a motorcycle in technical cornering situations. I ride respectfully, give joggers wide berth, stay on my side on the blind corners to stay out of the way of a car, etc, and I have a thorough enjoyment of the lush green space and the mercurial path that road carves through our city. All while having a wonderful time on my motorcycle. I take every new rider I’ve met up there to teach them, and build their confidence. Its also great because you learn right away how scared and alarmed people can be of motorcycles. Its a great way to learn and reinforce that you need to learn to ride in control, and non-threateningly. Hopefully it comes full circle and people learn to treat motorcyclists with more respect and deference and care when they encounter them in other places.

    Despite the no-motor vehiclist assertion that vehicles have plenty of places to go, they do not have /anywhere/ else like that to go. I think people should spend a little more effort learning to coexist with their fellow humans and see things from other points of view. Seattle is only going to get more crowded. Do you want to be celbrated for our ability to relax a little and accomodate each others’ various interests in our increasingly limited but amazingly high quality local resources of all sorts? Or do you want to have a hand yourself in creating a culture that can only appreciate how it ‘used to be back in the day’ before everyone got so damn pissy and mad and closed their doors and minds and ruined the place.

    You are the spirit of the place you inhabit. Show up, grow up, learn, share, and do something to make it worthwhile.

  16. Excellent comment, CJP! I agree with you completely…that stretch of road has comfortably accommodated different uses for decades, and there is no reason for that to change.

    ….except, the problem going forward is that it will probably cost ALOT of money to fix the roadway, and no doubt the City/SDOT will claim that this money is not available.

  17. This roadway should be open to all and I agree with cjp. I use it almost every day whether I walk or drive and the majority of people are courteous to all.
    I also noticed removal of a lot of vegetation below the construction site where that enormous home is being remodeled. This past Fall, I started seeing a lot of water on the roadway, the majority of the water was flowing below the construction site that continued to worsen and is still present.
    Hopefully the City will find a way to repair this lovely route so all can enjoy it. I miss it!

  18. Nicely put CJP.

    As a resident of Seattle for 50 years (driving 35 of them) I’ve enjoyed a long standing pleasurable habit of the occasional drive through Interlaken, sometimes on my motorcycle, sometimes on my bicycle, but mostly in my car leaving Capital Hill toward the U-District, Wallingford/Fremont or other points beyond. It’s such a lovely escape from the arterials, I get a quick sense – watching the seasons change by the leaves and lighting patterns – that I’ve transported far away from the city… I take my time and use extra caution because conditions merit. I’ve confronted the “Street Closed Ahead” sign several times of late so here I am to state my position – “I want my MTV!” …that’s “Municipal Treasure open to Vehicles”…