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“We are 16 days away” from the 9-day Alaskan Way Viaduct closure – partial closure northbound, full closure southbound – declared Matt Preedy, WSDOT’s deputy program director, at not one, but two meetings of West Seattle interest on Wednesday – the South Portal Working Group (citizens’ advisory committee that is convened roughly quarterly) and the Southwest District Council (reps of various community councils/organizations/institutions, mostly from western West Seattle). And now that it’s Thursday, we are 15 days away. From those meetings, we have more tidbits on how you are supposed to get around during the closure – which is scheduled from 7:30 pm Friday, October 21st, till 5 am Monday, October 31st (unless it ends early, which is apparently a real possibility). New maps are part of what’s new – the northbound bus plan above, for starters. Read on for more of the latest:
We realize that’s lots of fine print and dotted lines; we’ll find out even more about the bus plans at a county briefing tomorrow afternoon, but in the meantime, courtesy of WSDOT’s Travis Phelps, here’s the southbound version:
Other closure notes from the briefings:
NORTHBOUND REMAINS PARTLY OPEN: Preedy reminds drivers that during weekday daytime hours and special events (stadiums), you can travel on the surface to Royal Brougham and then get onto the northbound viaduct, since that direction will remain open from the stadiums northward.
AS FOR THE LOW BRIDGE … Regarding the Coast Guard’s exemption for low-bridge openings, announced by City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen earlier this week, 3-6 pm on the weekdays during the closure: “Why only pm closures?” asked working-group member Pete Spalding of Pigeon Point, pointing out that morning traffic is worse. Replied Preedy, “Eastbound and northbound in the morning, there are good options that still utilize the high bridge” – 1st Avenue offramp eastbound, and 4th Avenue offramp. If you’re trying to get from downtown (etc.) to points south of West Seattle, he said, they will also recommend taking 1st or 4th southbound to reach the 1st Avenue South Bridge.
IF THERE’S TROUBLE, THEY’LL CLEAR IT AS FAST AS THEY CAN: Preedy also reiterated something he had said at the most recent media event previewing the closure – two WSDOT Incident Response trucks will be stationed on the high bridge, which Preedy said is exceptional since they “haven’t operated outside state jurisdiction before.”
THEY’LL ADJUST IF THEY HAVE TO: During the commute, transportation authorities will have “three check-in calls” daily. “We want to monitor this thing in real=time and make adjustments wherever we need to,” Preedy explained, and that’s the best way to “compare notes and make sure that if things need to be modified we have an opportunity to do that.”
HOPING FOR EARLY COMPLETION: A surface section of road under the existing Viaduct that will be used as part of Highway 99 post-closure has been paved already, just in case that’ll shave some time off and enable early reopening. No promises, though.
More maps with “potential alternate routes” for the closure period will be released soon. One recommendation emerged at the SW District Council – Morgan Junction rep Chas Redmond suggested taking the Jose Rizal Bridge south of downtown to Beacon Hill, and getting on the West Seattle Bridge from Columbian Way. Laughter ensued, since several apparently considered that their “secret” detour. Preedy summarized, “If enough people don’t change their normal routine, this is going to be really, really bad. But history has shown that if we get the information out there and tell people it is going to be really, really bad, people WILL change.”
Meantime, as for the changes you’ll see once the closure is over…
AFTER ‘THE CLOSURE’: At the South Portal Working Group meeting, Preedy showed photos of the southbound, south section of the project that will be carrying traffic – two lanes each way – once the closure is over (eventually it will become the southbound-only section, carrying three lanes in that direction). There will be jersey barriers separating northbound and southbound, Preedy said, in response to a question from West Seattle rep Spalding. Overall, the photos he showed hinted at how different your travels on 99 will look once the closure is over, including a much-longer northbound stretch of two lanes each way. Getting onto the southbound viaduct post-closure, he said, there will be a longer merge lane coming from Columbia downtown, but you will merge into two lanes instead of three.
After the closure, demolition of what remains of the southern Viaduct will continue WITHOUT closing the road, he reiterated. West Seattle working-group rep Vlad Oustimovitch then interjected one more request – redirect the traffic cameras so that people can make decisions about discretionary trips based on how bad the traffic looks at the time.
And when the tunnel-boring begins, you’ll see a big hole toward the south end of downtown, since, Preedy said, the boring will go south to north, and last about a year. Also discussed at the working-group meeting:
SPOKANE STREET VIADUCT WIDENING PROJECT: July is the expected date for completion of the entire project, SDOT’s Bob Chandler said. As for when the 1st Avenue South on/offramp will be complete – officials at this meeting didn’t have the answer. West Seattle reps Oustimovitch and Spalding asked pointed questions about it and why it wasn’t ready after all before the 9-day closure, and Chandler said there was a problem with getting the steel to facilitate acceleration. Asked what supplier was the slow link in the chain, he said he didn’t have that information handy. Chandler also said he couldn’t corroborate the perception that there had been previous commitments the ramp would be done pre-long-closure, and he noted that there had been no such provision in the contract for the project.
EAST MARGINAL WAY GRADE SEPARATION PROJECT: This is the new over-the-tracks bridge you see off to the south when you head east on the West Seattle high bridge. It’s “very, very close to completion” and on budget, said a Port rep.
HIGHWAY 99 TIMBER BRIDGE REPLACEMENT: Preedy talked about the plan for this – “just want to get this on the radar screen.” It’s the section just south of the West Seattle Bridge, and more details are forthcoming in a few months, he said.
REMINDER – YOU CAN GET CLOSURE ANSWERS IN PERSON!!!! As mentioned several times already, next Monday night, 6-8 pm, West Seattle High School commons, city/county/state experts will be on hand for an open-house-format meeting to explain the closure, the alternate routes, and what happens afterward. A presentation is scheduled at 6:30 that night with WSDOT’s Preedy, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (all West Seattleites, incidentally).