Viaduct closure countdown: New maps, info from 2 meetings

October 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 26 Comments

(Click for larger version)
“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:

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Metro’s website already has a specific “how to get around” page. And here are the bike routes:

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).

26 Comments

  1. “could not corroborate the perception that there had been previous commitments” the 1st Ave on-ramps would be ready before the closure. Really? In January 2010 SDOT sent out a four-page “S Spokane St Viaduct Widening Project” info booklet that promised “New westbound on- and off-ramps at 1st Ave S: Summer 2011.” An April 2010 update moved the opening to “Fall 2011.” I suppose that is not really a commitment. Maybe we should have gotten it in writing…er…that is…in writing AND notarized. Of course, maybe I missed the update that changed to an opening date of “TBD.” C’mon, SDOT, I understand stuff happens but it is disingenuous to pretend the delay is anything but an unhappy surprise for most West Seattle commuters.

    Comment by anon — 7:14 pm October 6, 2011 #

  2. I get that this needs to get done. I get that WSDOT thinks it’s doing this in the most efficient way possible. I get that this is just “one of the steps,” but I’m already starting to have a panic attack about this… 1st/4th/Alaskan Way can’t handle the WS traffic and I have a feeling the peninsula will become more of an island over these 9 days.

    Comment by BabyPants — 7:56 pm October 6, 2011 #

  3. I agree with Pete that it would be helpful if they limited the lower bridge openings in the mornings. The light was flashing to use the upper bridge this morning, just after 7:00 am and the traffic was awful.

    I wish I had an aerocar like the Jetsons…

    Comment by T — 8:16 pm October 6, 2011 #

  4. I lived in Boston prior to moving to Seattle, and have to say I would rather have the city officials tell you frankly, “You’re screwed for the next 9 days” then to have smoke blown up my wazoo. The 1st & 4th Ave exits already take 20-30 mins to drive to (without incidents)…now add the typical 99N traffic volume to the mix? I’m taking the week off but look forward to hearing about these daily “check-in calls”.

    There are only two thru-traffic lanes on I-5 through downtown….which are fed by 4 or 5 lanes coming north? What is being done to resolve the real issue with Seattle traffic?

    Comment by George — 8:38 pm October 6, 2011 #

  5. So talk to your City Council and Legislative Representatives and Senators – otherwise it’s just bytes in the web.

    Comment by chas redmond — 8:44 pm October 6, 2011 #

  6. Those bytes in the web made me feel better, until you came along. Thanks Killjoy.

    Comment by George — 9:11 pm October 6, 2011 #

  7. Commenting isn’t completely futile. But even though some decisionmakers read – they are under no obligation to even acknowledge that they have – so participating in the official process is indeed REALLY REALLY important, and that’s why we bang the drum endlessly here about the meetings, town halls, official e-mail addresses, etc. The meetings/open houses about transportation projects in particular are great chances to look somebody in the eye and at least ask questions, if you don’t feel bold enough to say “this isn’t working for me” – sometimes you will get great information and discussion, sometimes you may find that your concerns are validated (I just came from a public meeting, not in WS, at which a government employee was really on the hot seat because of a process that really doesn’t seem to make much sense, and the folks whose meeting it was were calling her on it). – at the very least, if you have any continuing confusion/concern because of this avalanche of information that continues to roll out, you can walk up to somebody standing next to a map on an easel and say, Look, I need to get to X from Y – tell me how that’s going to work? and they WILL get you an answer – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:14 pm October 6, 2011 #

  8. I recall sitting in a SWDC meeting a year ago, listening to SDOT talk about the time table for the Spokane st project. When questioned about the schedule and concerns that it would not be completed prior to the viaduct project, that official made the comment that everything would be done well before the viaduct came down, referring to the 2015 completion. When it was pointed out that the south end of the viaduct was coming down in fall 2011 and detours would be starting in a matter of months, he just had a blank look on his face. He was not aware of the WSDOT schedule.

    Comment by Jim — 10:34 pm October 6, 2011 #

  9. For God’s sake, stop it with the pearl-clutching. Once upon a time a drunk sea captain slammed his boat into an already decrepit West Seattle Bridge and screwed everyone’s lives up unexpectedly for about seven years.

    We got through that then – without internet, without cellphones, without GPS, and we’ll get through this now. Everybody just needs to keep clam.

    Alki, everybody, Alki…..

    Comment by Nothing is new — 10:48 pm October 6, 2011 #

  10. All of the above, all of it would not be necessary if certain previous officials hadn’t caved into developers whose property values are about to skyrocket when the viaduct comes down.

    A good journalist would be exposing that entire sham that was put to the people of this city. Including the interpretation of the silly “viaduct vote”. Now that would make a nice story.

    The State had offered us a free viaduct replacement with no tolls and someone with lots of influence convinced the City and County leaderships to refute it.

    Now we have all the above plus future tunnel cost overruns to look forward to.

    Enjoy your commute.

    Comment by Scuba Steve — 10:50 pm October 6, 2011 #

  11. nothing is new — nicely put.
    scuba steve — if you’re concerned about a 10-day shutdown, that ‘free viaduct with no tolls’ (which isn’t true by the way) would have caused 4 to five YEARS of gridlock during construction. And someone always makes money when things change … unless they bet wrong and lose money. There aren’t that many buildings that can be redeveloped in that area because of historic designations. If the property values do ‘skyrocket’ that’s good news — it means the city will collect more in property taxes. It’s also ‘the government’ section of downtown without a lot of draws (i.e. big name retail) for the public that would result in lots of new buildings. Most of what can be built is already there and the land under the viaduct belongs to the government.

    Comment by metrognome — 11:42 pm October 6, 2011 #

  12. Why aren’t the ferries being rerouted? For God’s sake could they not even figure this no brainer out. Why has no one at least made this happen? Are the City Council members that out of touch with what is going on? We elected these people to be our advocates not some player in a Monty Python sketch. “The beatings will continue until moral has improved!”

    Comment by Neighbor — 1:48 am October 7, 2011 #

  13. Maybe it’s been addressed elsewhere, but for those of us planning to take the Water Taxi in/out of downtown during the closure, can we still walk from the dock to our offices on the other side of the Viaduct (ie walk UNDER the Viaduct to get to points east of it)? I don’t want to take the WT & then have to go around just to get back to Pioneer Square.
    .
    Anyone? Anyone?

    Comment by Jasperblu — 4:03 am October 7, 2011 #

  14. The lack of progress to completing the 1st Ave S ramps is outrageous.

    Quite often when driving mostly on the eastside I see Road projects being worked on at night (520 in Medina the other night)work on weekends (Factoria under I -90 a few weeks ago.

    It is simply a slap in the face that no such expediting has or is ever going to take place for the projects in the SODO area.

    SDOT really should be pressured about the ridiculously slow progress on these projects.

    Comment by rico — 6:33 am October 7, 2011 #

  15. Jasperblu,

    The northern part of the viaduct is not coming down until AFTER the tunnel is complete so getting under (or through if you use the elevated walkway at Marion) the Viaduct shouldn’t be effected.

    Comment by Robert2715 — 9:59 am October 7, 2011 #

  16. I would love a clear and precise explanation from SDOT why they couldn’t get the 1st avenue onramp to westbound West Seattle Bridge fast tracked as part of this project. There are literally acres of roadway completed on Spokane Viaduct expansion but they left this most vital element to nearly last is quite the head scratcher.

    Comment by Robert2715 — 10:10 am October 7, 2011 #

  17. Jasperblu, the Water Taxi dropoff (Pier 50) is north of the construction zone. It is about 50 yards south of the Ferry terminal/Colman Dock. Walking from the dropoff won’t be an issue.

    Comment by Always confused — 10:18 am October 7, 2011 #

  18. Imagine that more drivers than usual are trying to get off of the WS bridge to first, which will enable them to get on 99 at Royal Brougham. What does SDOT anticipate will happen to the bus only lane as the back up from drivers trying to exit to first avenue grows? Traffic onto first can back up onto the bridge in the best of times. I cannot imagine what SPD will be doing to enforce the bus only lane during car-mageddon.

    I am still amazed that so much progress has been made on the new 99 stretch, and not so much progress has been made on the widening of the WS bridge. I believe that lack of ramps to the WS bridge was a huge contributor in bringing us to our knees in the last snow storm. And a year later, we’ll be crippled again by lack of ramps during the viaduct closure.

    Comment by Tracielu — 10:36 am October 7, 2011 #

  19. metrognome, bottom line is it doesn’t matter why and who anymore. The viaduct is a goner so let’s get that boring machine going to minimize the regional impact of all that HWY-99 traffic flow diverting to I-5 and to surface streets. Perhaps the collective impact of all this will finally convince the public to stop allowing the wrong city officials to play transportation engineer.

    Tracielu, Good point on enforcement of transit lane violations. Now more than ever it will be critical for SPD to have a zero tolerance policy on Bus Lane violators since transit will be critical for this commute.

    Comment by Scuba Steve — 12:39 pm October 7, 2011 #

  20. These maps are useless. Why?
    1) These maps are for buses.(look at the title) Buses are privleged with their own lanes on the bridge. Also buses have unrestricted left turns off the bridge.
    2) The 4th Ave exit curves down to a STOP LIGHT. That will back up more than the old 99 exit did.
    3) With lights impeding the exits off of 99 at 4th and left turn restrictions at the 1st at another STOP LIGHT. Taking the West Seattle Bridge after NB Viaduct closure will be useless between 7:00 and 8:30 AM
    The DOT sugar coats everything and expects no one to notice. Why not take the bus? It would take me 90 minutes and three bus changes to get to E. Marginal Way South, plus more in fares than in gas.

    Comment by Kalster — 1:36 pm October 7, 2011 #

  21. Clicking on both maps shows you that the SDOT and WSDOT are only concerned about TRANSIT gridlock.

    You have car! ??? How extravagant of you!
    Get on the bus because we all have endless amounts of time in the morning to get to work with all three kids and their stuff and your stuff and oh the humanity!

    Comment by Kalster — 1:46 pm October 7, 2011 #

  22. i hope – what a four-letter word – that SDOT and SPD are putting traffic control cops at spokane street during those 9 days.
    .
    you have to remember that there’s a lot of traffic from 509 and east marginal that uses 99, as well, and first ave, fourth ave, sixth ave, airport way, and I-5 will already be impacted before traffic from spokane street gets there.
    .
    ferry rerouting would be stellar – but i don’t think colman dock could handle the work load of bainbridge, bremerton, and vashon at rush hour. a car ferry run from fauntleroy to downtown would also be a good idea.
    .
    what the hell am i talking about? that would require foresight and planning.
    .
    never mind.

    Comment by redblack — 2:57 pm October 7, 2011 #

  23. Thanks @Robert2715 and @AlwaysConfused … I just figured if they were working above our heads, I might have to do a walk-around. I get off the water taxi, and head south to cross at Washington, then walk to Pioneer Sq. Just didn’t want a rude awakening on the other side… it’s going to be hard enough getting to/from work that 10 days!

    Comment by Cheryl — 4:48 pm October 7, 2011 #

  24. Is the BUSWAY being utilized to get some bus traffic off the main arterials? I know 1st & 4th will be pretty busy, just thought having the buses on a transit designated area might ease some congestion.

    Comment by Renaissance Red — 3:16 pm October 8, 2011 #

  25. I two have always wonderd why there is no ferry from Fauntlery to Downtown. Is this just to obvious or is it so obviously futile ?

    Comment by Pablo Loco — 12:12 am October 9, 2011 #

  26. @redblack,i’m not sure of the year but, vashon car ferries used the coleman downtown dock for quite some time in the late 1980′s-while either the island dock or the fauntleroy dock was being rebuilt. it eased traffic in W.S. alot. my brother has lived on vashon since 1969 and he loved the ride. did his paper work and read the morning paper. he still doesn’t know why the car ferry doesn’t motor to downtown.

    Comment by old commuter — 7:36 am October 9, 2011 #

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