Freeway Fright ’07: Frequent WS commute updates

August 13, 2007 at 8:45 am | In Elliott Bay Water Taxi, Freeway Fright '07, Transportation | 27 Comments

Scroll below these six live cams (refresh this page any time for the latest images and info) for our updates from the morning commute on what did, and didn’t, happen out there:

(l to r below: latest from cams over WS Bridge midspan looking east, WS Br. I-5 ramps, I-5 @ Spokane Street in whichever direction WSDOT chooses to point it)


(l to r below: latest from cams looking east @ Low Bridge approach, south on Alaskan Way @ Washington, 99 @ 1st Avenue S bridge)


Before the commute updates, remember: The low bridge won’t open for boats; the Water Taxi has changes; you can turn left to 4th Ave S from surface Spokane St.

5:40 AM: State update page confirms bridge ramp to NB 5 is open again. WSB-mobile heading out. One of us is checking out the main routes and alternatives and will phone/text/send pix back to HQ for the other to add here.

6:10 AM: First Water Taxi run has 50 passengers. Announcement heard – no chairs upstairs because of some sort of problem. One television camera crew and KIRO radio at dock.

610wt.jpg

6:30: Admiral to I-90 took nine minutes. Sky more crowded than road – two choppers, two planes over I-5. (Below is the view right after turning onto NB 5 from WS Bridge.)

630i5.jpg

7 AM: We’re changing places. Team member just back from the road reports First Avenue South looking good past the stadiums, the bridge looked great heading east as we headed back west. Beware — some of the “I-5 ramp closed” detour signs are still up in places on the WS side — that is NOT true; the ramp to NB I-5 is open and we saw it with our own eyes. If you drive that stretch, be careful not to get distracted by what’s happening with the construction on the right side of the road — interesting welding, etc., but keep your eyes on the car in front of you!

7:07 AM: As our road crew heads toward the bridge for the next firsthand report, radio traffic reporter says the Viaduct is starting to bunch up. Meantime, another note for people taking I-5 to 90 — the right lanes of 5 are blocked till right before the ramp — no time to see it and merge over, so make sure you stay on the right side from the moment you get onto 5, if that’s where you’re headed.

7:19 AM: First report from road crew since switchover: Everything still looking good. Taco Time on 35th to 1st Avenue South off The Bridge — four minutes. Delridge onramp starting to get busy but not bad. 35th moving well. Large contingent of traffic officers spotted at the bottom of the 1st Avenue South offramp.

7:27 AM: Coming back the other way, eastbound bridge still looking good, 35th “almost deserted.” Radio traffic reports say the Eastside are where things are fairly ugly — a lot of people taking 405 to avoid 5, apparently. If you commute that way, beware.

7:33 AM: Radio traffic reporter says she’s going 45 mph — posted limit — past the construction zone on NB 5 between WS Bridge and I-90, all’s well. She also echoes what we noticed last hour, the work itself is a sight to see. WSDOT update page says things are starting to slow at 509/99.

7:41 AM: This WS-based LJer who left for work “at the crack of dawn” writes what many are thinking … OK, today’s OK so far because we all had the living daylights scared out of us; tomorrow (and beyond) could be a different story.

7:54 AM: Just drove The Bridge from 35th to 1st S again. Still just four minutes, moving at the speed limit. Now our road crew is back on the WS side and reporting that parking is a challenge in the water-taxi vicinity — even up to the diagonal spots at the viewpoint several blocks west. So if you want to take the WT, don’t bring your car — catch a shuttle.

8:06 AM: The Water Taxi is definitely the story of the morning. Radio reporter says the last run set a record — 191 passengers (you’ll recall WT was recently recertified to carry up to 250). Just got a photo of the line, which is now stretching toward the street …

watertaxiline.jpg

8:25 AM: Checked out The (high) Bridge yet again. Our road crew reports “still NOBODY out here.” Times blog has a dispatch from someone who bicycled in from WS. WSB-mobile now on the way to check out the low bridge.

8:31 AM: Radio says the Water Taxi’s sudden success has pushed it a bit behind schedule; the WT run that was supposed to leave at 8:10 am “didn’t even get to the dock till 8:25.” We’ll check later with King County folks to see if any changes are planned for tomorrow.

8:38 AM: Low bridge and WT dock both quiet — looks like the morning rush is over. WSDOT folks are frantically warning, don’t let this fool you into going back to your regular habits tomorrow, this only worked BECAUSE so many people changed their ways.

8:45 AM: WSDOT also reminds us, there’s a Mariners’ game tonight at Safeco. Even without the benefit of I-5 construction, that usually means trouble driving home to WS in the early evening, so everyone beware. We’re wrapping up this round of posting but keep adding your observations; we’ll be up early to track things tomorrow too, and of course we’ll get back to the rest of the WS news for today …

27 Comments

  1. No problems for me heading over the WS Bridge just before 6am…4th Ave S was also clear. FYI, glad they put in a left turn from Spokane to 4th Ave So…hopefully they leave that in place.

    Comment by Lou — 6:21 am August 13, 2007 #

  2. I hit the bridge just before 6 too, and was rewarded with a smooth commute.

    Looking at the WSDOT web site, and listening to the news, looks like most people decided for alternate routes – both 509 and the 167/405 northbound routes are jammed, and I5 looks clear and open. Of course, it’s still just 6:30…

    Tommorrow’s another day, and I imagine the people parked on the alternate routes will readjust tommorrow and try something different. I think I’m going to get going even earlier tommorrow.

    Comment by Vente C — 6:34 am August 13, 2007 #

  3. My commute was way too easy this morning. I take the 54X and took one 12 min. earlier than normal (bus was half empty, but since it’s not my regular bus, I don’t know if that’s normal or not), so we hit the bridge about 7:35 or so – it was like driving early on a Saturday morning: wide open and empty. 99 was a breeze. We got downtown very quickly. I think everyone ran scared today, called in sick, went on vacation, took alternates, and then when they watch the news and see how easy it was today, they’ll all think they were the only ones with the brilliant idea to take I-5 tomorrow and Wednesday and it’ll be packed and cause problems. I hope not, but we’ll see what happens.

    Comment by Sue — 7:59 am August 13, 2007 #

  4. Boy was this morning a non event for me. I left for work on Eastlake on the 54 that leaves the junction around 7:02 (usually take the 55 at 7:12) and arrived at Eastlake at 7:40 and that was walking from Macy’s…I’m afraid it was too good and everyone will go back to normal routine tomorrow. I hear the sounder was standing room only when it got to Kent this am. Was going to take the water taxi, but glad I didn’t. My company was supposed to have a shuttle for us from the taxi to Eastlake, but was too full of sounder folks.

    Comment by Mags — 8:05 am August 13, 2007 #

  5. Hit the bridge on the 54 bus at 7:30 and all was well! In fact, it was quicker than normal! Amazing!

    Comment by K — 8:05 am August 13, 2007 #

  6. “Low Bridge won’t open for boats” – wasn’t true at 5:12am Monday – although it was mercifully short, I had the privilege of waiting on my bike 14 minutes for the bridge to open, a barge and tug to transit, and the bridge to close – that last two minutes while the bridge slowly gets lined up and locked in are the worst. The backed up truck traffic on the east end made that terrible road surface even more obnoxious and dangerous.

    Saw two metro coaches eastbound on Royal Broughm (sp?) drive through a red light at 4th ave, turning southbound – right infront of southbound traffic! I was so stunned I had to look at all the lights to make sure I was really seeing what happened.

    Rainier Ave northbound traffic seemed much heavier than normal today.

    Comment by Eddie — 8:11 am August 13, 2007 #

  7. 8:11 – West Seattle Bridge looks like a SUNDAY morning from the cameras.

    Comment by RobertSeattle — 8:11 am August 13, 2007 #

  8. Took the 21 express (7:28 at Roxbury) and it was freakily empty (it had empty seats, I expected people standing in the aisles). 99 north was also freakily empty, much better than usual, here I am at work 25 minutes earlier than normal.

    Comment by t — 8:13 am August 13, 2007 #

  9. Oh my god…the buses at 4th and Royal Broughman always run the red lights…I’ve actually blogged about this before on my own – it drives me nuts. The SPD really needs to setup shop there for a morning and hand out some tickets.

    I was originally going to take the water taxi @ 6:10 but since traffic was so light I decided to drive. For those who took the water taxi…beware of the lines heading home – they will probably be long especially for the 5:20 return trip.

    Comment by Lou — 8:18 am August 13, 2007 #

  10. On KUOW radio, I heard about another web cam showing traffic on Airport Way http://seattletrafficjam.com/

    A local business (Holiday Travel, I think) put cameras on their Airport Way building when they heard that DOT and/or the city have no cameras on Airport Way.

    Comment by Kathy — 8:27 am August 13, 2007 #

  11. I was on the 7:30 water taxi…it left late because of the heavy ridership so I walked into my office 15 minutes later than usual but I still LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT :) I’m interested to see how the rest of the week plays out. I may get on the bus to go home instead of taking the water taxi and fighting my way onto one of the shuttles up to Admiral…

    Comment by T — 8:35 am August 13, 2007 #

  12. WSDOT site looks pretty green. I think people stayed home…

    Comment by Vente C — 8:39 am August 13, 2007 #

  13. I took the 54 local from SW Juneau and California at 8:03am and the commute was fine. I usually take the 7:37, but decided to have some coffee and not rush in this morning. I originally planned on taking the water taxi, but after taking it home from downtown on Friday afternoon I decided it’s too much of a hassle catching the shuttle etc…I’m just going to stick to my normal bus routine and see how it goes.

    Comment by NATINSTL — 8:54 am August 13, 2007 #

  14. I’m thrilled that the Water Taxi is proving so popular, and Metro + Argosy staff are looking into ways to get boats closer to on-time. My understanding is that the shuttles have been on time. Capacity was doubled – has anyone been left at the curb? Please keep posting.

    Comment by Dow Constantine — 9:00 am August 13, 2007 #

  15. I know there were some people who were left on the dock for the 7:30 run but not because there wasn’t enough room…they were late (very late because the boat left late and they still didn’t make it). They were on the dock while we were still tied up but they had already pulled in the footbridge. I’m not sure how the shuttles are faring. By the looks of Beach Drive, many many people parked down there instead of using the shuttles.

    Comment by T — 9:20 am August 13, 2007 #

  16. My understanding is that the Water Taxi’s upper-deck chairs got dusted with soot when they fired up the engine first thing this morning. They didn’t have time to clean them because of the other demands of the day. Everything will be back in place shortly.

    Comment by Dow Constantine — 9:20 am August 13, 2007 #

  17. LOL better a dirty arse than miss your water taxi:)

    Comment by Cruiser — 9:30 am August 13, 2007 #

  18. I commute from West Seattle to Tacoma, so have neither expected nor experienced any impact thus far, but I have to observe that I-5 in the other direction (i.e., northbound) from Tacoma was wide open this morning. That NEVER happens.

    I heard the Sounder was SRO this morning, but I don’t know that even that would account for the empty freeway; I think a lot of people took vacation or stayed home.

    Comment by Genevieve Williams — 9:31 am August 13, 2007 #

  19. Yeah but a Monday in August isn’t a reliable yardstick: everybody’s out for long weekends anyway–Monday morning commutes are always a breeze this time of year.

    Tomorrow (Tuesday) is gonna be the real test.

    Comment by Ftrain — 9:44 am August 13, 2007 #

  20. Just came in from an appointment in north Seattle. I came back 99. It was easy south, but looks like there’s an accident or something or the northbound lanes just north of the southbound exit. Traffic was piling up there.

    Comment by Katherine — 9:55 am August 13, 2007 #

  21. i was on the 7:30 (more like 7:45) WT this morning with 190+ people aboard! There were no chairs on the top floor…so everyone was standing and the floors were wet. they should really think about having something for people to hold on to up there, it could get dangerous! i saw a couple camera people from King5 taking footage of the crowd. I think its great that this scare made us all use mass transit…i hope it lasts!

    Comment by Sara — 10:03 am August 13, 2007 #

  22. Thanks WSB for wonderful coverage of this event. It was the first place I checked this morning before leaving the house.

    Comment by Lou — 10:29 am August 13, 2007 #

  23. PLEASE KEEP THIS UP!!!

    Comment by Philip — 10:37 am August 13, 2007 #

  24. PLEASE KEEP THIS UP!!!

    We heve a great look at the way commuting SHOULD be in W.S. I sincerely hope that most of you got the idea how easy it is to use public transit.

    If your 30 minute drive took you 2-3 hours using transit, okay then, getting back in the car is understandable. Otherwise, do the environmentally responsible, congestion relieving thing and continue this new habit into September.

    Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Philip — 10:43 am August 13, 2007 #

  25. wsb, we don’t know how you do it all, but we’re darn glad you do!

    Comment by dq — 11:37 am August 13, 2007 #

  26. Yeah, soot balls got the best of that open second deck. The entire crew spent the morning break scrubbing everything up there. But that’s what can happen when the wee barky is goin’ full bore for her West Seattle commuters.

    I’d like to hear from the WS water taxi and bicycle commuters: Where there more of you than usual, too? Did you have trouble getting your wheels on board? Regardless of that, you bikers (and there are quite a few of you) should make yourselves known to the fledgling ferry district folks, and help ensure that the next incarnation of the water taxi is more accommodating for you. The Sightseer is cute and all, but just not built for its current job.

    There’s not much more you or the crew can do to speed up the boarding (there’s a lot more of you now, and only one door), but having exact change or those passes out and ready does help a lot. And the great majority of you have been super at that over the season so far.

    And to all you folks you are thinking about taking a crowded bus tomorrow instead of crowded water taxi, the boat has about 1000% more fresh air circulation, especially on the second deck and even with the soot balls. Thanks for staying out of your cars either way.

    EBWT crew of the past and steadfast admirer of same,

    Rebecca

    Comment by Rebecca — 6:39 pm August 13, 2007 #

  27. WSB…Above and beyond the call of duty coverage! Thanks!

    Comment by cami — 7:48 pm August 13, 2007 #

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