When I was a kid growing up in Tukwila, I spent almost no time on Highway 99, maybe because there were just too many hills to walk or ride up to get there.
It didn’t seem sinister; there just wasn’t a reason to go to Pacific Highway, unless you were headed south to the ocean. Foster mostly became the western-most reach of my travels.
Then I went away to college and career and Highway 99 changed, not for the better. My career re-introduced me to Highway 99 in the 1980s, when a man named Gary Ridgway trolled the The Strip for prostitutes, his victims, on Tukwila’s periphery.
Roughly 20 years ago, he was locked away for life, the nation’s worst mass killer; but prostitutes remained and drug deals were made for years on Highway 99.
I know folks in the business of burnishing images cringe with the mention of that sordid past. But today Tukwila is spending millions of dollars to revitalize its piece of the highway – now Tukwila International Boulevard – to make sure that history isn’t repeated.
How appropriate that Mayor Allan Ekberg calls what’s happening on Tukwila International Boulevard a “reawakening.” How appropriate that today the highway lives up to my childhood image: it doesn’t seem sinister.
So what happens next on the Boulevard, now that those four motels are gone?
First, no child should ever again have to live somewhere where crime is rife. No young woman should ever again walk down the Boulevard to catcalls or worse. No one should ever do more at a bus stop than wait for one.
No child should ever again come home from school to an apartment not much better than one in a Third World country from which they or their parents fled. Making that happen is mostly beyond the scope of the Police Department’s job description, but it is a job for a caring community.
The demolition of those four motels is symbolic of Tukwila ridding itself of a hub of crime. Sure, crime will still occur on TIB and everyone must always remain vigilant.
But the ground under those motels presents boundless opportunities for the community and the richly diverse neighborhoods that straddle the Boulevard.