West Seattle traffic alert: Spokane St. Viaduct ‘traffic shift’ starts

April 12, 2012 at 5:00 am | In Spokane St. Viaduct project, West Seattle news | 57 Comments

(Scroll down for ongoing updates during the morning commute)

(No cameras in the construction zone, so here’s the SDOT webcam view looking toward it)
5 AM: If you use the Spokane Street Viaduct – the West Seattle Bridge between I-5 and Highway 99 – this is the morning a big, though temporary, change is supposed to kick in, as of right about now: All four lanes of traffic will be using the newly built north side of the elevated structure, which means …

*Narrower lanes (10 feet)
*25 mph speed limit
*No eastbound access to the 4th Avenue S. offramp for at least the first six weeks

This is all for the biggest part of the final phase of the three-plus-year Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project – rehabbing the original elevated structure, to the south of the newly built one. When it’s all done, the new north side will carry the westbound lanes and the original south side will carry the eastbound lanes. Meantime, the tighter-squeeze temporary configuration will likely mean slower going, so we’ll watch this morning’s commute closely, for starters. And (once your commute is over) let us know how it goes for you.

(Photo shared by Ben)
7:46 AM NOTE: Commenters are talking about one other change mentioned in the city reminder from yesterday afternoon:

In addition, access to the eastbound Spokane Viaduct from the eastbound Harbor Island on-ramp will be restricted – the ramp will only provide access to northbound SR99—until the eastbound traffic is moved back onto the refurbished structure in the late summer.

8:17 AM UPDATE: Text (206-293-6302 any time) and Twitter tips say there’s a multi-car “fender bender” in the right eastbound lane of the Spokane Street Viaduct, with “huge backups” ensuing.

8:47 AM UPDATE: Police are handling the crash – units were going from West Seattle, but were called off when closer units said they would handle – but we haven’t heard whether it’s been cleared yet. Multiple reports say the bridge trouble has backed up approaches including Delridge and 35th.

9:18 AM UPDATE: The bridge crash has JUST been cleared – it was announced on the scanner, “All lanes of the eastbound West Seattle Bridge are now open.”

(Screengrab of lower-bridge opening, 9:11 am)
However, the low bridge has been out of commission for a while, as a barge goes through…

57 Comments

  1. Was not fun this morning. The original lanes are already skinny enough, the new 10′ are just scarey. I will thoroughly enjoy when a semi is next to me or decides to take up both lanes

    Comment by JD — 6:07 am April 12, 2012 #

  2. I think we’ll be missing some of the semi traffic, since there’s no Harbor Island/Low Bridge access why this is going on – there was a semi and a bus just sitting there when I drove by

    Comment by Colleen — 7:00 am April 12, 2012 #

  3. Went through at 6:30. No problem. No one going under old speed limit.

    Comment by Dick — 7:25 am April 12, 2012 #

  4. I was on the WSB East bound around 7:50 AM. As I was taking the 99 North exit the east bound lanes were just starting to back up onto the WSB bridge deck. So it didn’t look that different for that time in the commute.

    Comment by Snack — 7:32 am April 12, 2012 #

  5. People going on 99 will like that there is no low bridge merge traffic to deal with.

    Comment by Robert — 7:32 am April 12, 2012 #

  6. Colleen, that’s what I noticed too. So if you take the low bridge, you can get on 99 N but not up onto the W.Seattle Bridge or 1st Ave via the Bridge. That will actually help with traffic on the Bridge because there’s no one merging in there. But I don’t think that was part of the communication that I’ve seen so far.

    Comment by Kim — 7:41 am April 12, 2012 #

  7. Sigh… I think the dot hates us. Thank God I am moving in 4 months. They need to come up with a better solution on entering West Seattle from I-5 I have seen soooo many accidents almost happen because people have to cheat on merge in at the last moment. They need to just tear it down and start over.

    Comment by Rob — 7:42 am April 12, 2012 #

  8. It’s in this city update which we linked hither and yon … http://onthemove.seattle.gov/2012/04/11/traffic-shift-for-eastbound-traffic-on-spokane-street-viaduct-tomorrow
    .
    Didn’t realize that was a popular alternative for people – we’ll add it to the copy here – TR

    Comment by WSB — 7:45 am April 12, 2012 #

  9. Just witnessed several semi trucks driving through the new barriers. Unbelievable.

    Comment by Anne — 7:50 am April 12, 2012 #

  10. Commute to Bellevue wasn’t as nasty as I thought. It took me about 10 min to get across the bridge but I think that strange bright ball in the sky didn’t help any. What is that thing? It burns!

    Comment by Kenny — 8:05 am April 12, 2012 #

  11. 6:30am is usually pretty chill. It’s after 7am when the spokane viaduct and the bridge really heat up.

    I believe the limited access to the spokane viaduct from harbor island and the spill over to Northbound 99 really accounted for a slower than usual bus trip via 99 this morning.

    Comment by Neo-Realist — 8:16 am April 12, 2012 #

  12. Re the on-ramp from the lower bridge onto 99, LOTS of people driving through the barriers. The signage is extremely unclear, so there’s that, too. Extended the drive by about fifteen minutes overall.

    Comment by JP — 8:17 am April 12, 2012 #

  13. Took me 25 min to get from 35th on ramp to 99.

    Comment by KJ — 8:36 am April 12, 2012 #

  14. I think most of the trucks were surprised to find out that they couldn’t hop onto the east-bound Spokane viaduct from the lower bridge ramp and were forced to take North 99. Really gummed things up. Several were taking the Seneca ramp into downtown. I’m sure the downtown portion of the city is going to love that if it keeps up. I hope they finish that Spokane viaduct in record time…

    Comment by Bob H. — 8:38 am April 12, 2012 #

  15. And now there’s an accident in the right lane.

    Comment by KJ — 8:39 am April 12, 2012 #

  16. Be prepared to sit, sit, sit. I’m definitely returning to the water taxi tomorrow.

    Comment by WS driver — 8:44 am April 12, 2012 #

  17. Hey folks driving up and down 26th ave SW like a swarm of angry bees, please remember kids and pets live on our street so SLOW down. I will be out there with a bunch of kids waiting for the bus in a few minutes and the crazy drivers trying to figure out a way to get around the backup make me very nervous!

    Comment by kayo — 8:45 am April 12, 2012 #

  18. Ahhh, the ongoing consequences of our former mayor .05 killing the monorail. That would have been done what, two years ago? This city is just going to continue to get less livable. Good times.

    Comment by Delridgian — 8:49 am April 12, 2012 #

  19. Left my house in gatewood at 8. Still haven’t made in on to lower bridge at 8:50.

    Comment by Twicksea — 8:51 am April 12, 2012 #

  20. And now they’ve closed the lower bridge for vehicle traffic.

    Comment by Twicksea — 9:01 am April 12, 2012 #

  21. Delridgian: The monorail was killed by citizens voting it down on a 2005 ballot measure. Completely inept upper management by Joel Horn and the ETC resulting in a financing scheme costing $9 billion over 50 years to pay for a $2 billion project is really what killed it.

    Comment by Look4wrd — 9:02 am April 12, 2012 #

  22. The fam and I left our home in High Point at 755. Made it okay down Delridge until Genessee where the backup started. The low bridge was closed to traffic because a large barge was passing through around 810. I thought there was a gentleman’s agreement that boat traffic wouldn’t pass through during the morning rush hour?

    Comment by MrsL — 9:02 am April 12, 2012 #

  23. Bus wasn’t too bad, to be honest, but it was slightly slowed I guess. Glad I don’t drive!

    Comment by odroku — 9:11 am April 12, 2012 #

  24. The lower swing bridge is open at 9:12. No one is getting through

    Comment by dean — 9:13 am April 12, 2012 #

  25. Flippin’ mess this morning and for the last few years infact! New lane config, driving into the sun, accident in the right lane, semi’s making their own lanes .. I am not surprised it took me almost an hour to get to I5.
    .
    Poor planning by the city!!! They are reactive as usual. We needed these transporation improvements 5 – 10 years ago when the city greenlighted all of this development in West Seattle. How did they think the extra people living in West Seattle were going to get to and from their homes?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Freakin’ magic?!
    .
    Situation normal, all “fouled” up SNAFU
    .
    @rob, i totally agree with your distaste for the late mergers on I5 south at the west seattle exit. I’ve been bugging the state patrol for years to clamp down on the entitled. It is illegal to cross the gore point/merge late. Once again, a reactive vs proactive approach is favored for some reason. Maybe after the semi roll over accident last week that blocked all lanes and had traffic backed up to Lynnwood plus the accident I saw yesterday, we will see some attention paid to this WS exit.

    Comment by angel — 9:14 am April 12, 2012 #

  26. Delegate is backed up past Youngstown/park/community center. Been sitting for about 15 minutes and still not to the bridge.

    Comment by Sarah — 9:23 am April 12, 2012 #

  27. 6-7 car chain reaction accident on the right hand lane. It looks like cars traveling faster than the (new) posted speed limit following too close to one another (surprise!).

    With average traffic speeds way higher than 25mph zipping through those narrow 10 ft wide lanes, expect more fender benders like this.

    Comment by gom — 9:25 am April 12, 2012 #

  28. The only solution is to get all these cars off the road. We need the Seattle Subway, and we need to start on it now. http://seattletransitblog.com/2011/11/23/lets-build-a-seattle-subway/

    Comment by Kim — 9:27 am April 12, 2012 #

  29. Anyone involved in/see the fender bender? Traffic was completely stop and go well before that accident occurred… how were four, five cars involved in an accident going 10 mph?

    Comment by james — 9:53 am April 12, 2012 #

  30. Unfortunate that they don’t have both of the First Ave S. exit lanes open so more traffic can funnel off. I understand that the left lane has to stay closed while they work on the new barrier on the upper roadway, but perhaps they could do that section first then reopen the lane?

    As for the fender bender, based on what I see every morning it was probably one of these: talking on phone with phone in hand, talking on phone with phone in one hand and cigarette in other hand, talking on phone with phone in one hand and curling iron in other hand; talking on phone with phone in one hand and brushing hair with other hand, talking on phone while applying makeup, texting, texting while holding dog on lap, reading the newspaper, shaving, tweezing eyebrows, last but not least – eating pastry with coffee cup in hand while talking on the phone with the other hand and driving with your knees. Sadly, I have witnessed all of these and more.

    Comment by sw — 10:07 am April 12, 2012 #

  31. 45 min across leaving Admiral at 9. If they’re not going to police the bus lane they might as well open it up. It looked like another lane of traffic there were so many people using it. And I too saw people driving through the barriers to get on the bridge from underneath. That certainly can’t continue.

    Comment by TW — 10:19 am April 12, 2012 #

  32. I noticed what Bob H did in his 8:38am post: many semi-trucks coming off of Harbor Island and getting onto 99 Northbound. That gummed things up for W. Seattle and everyone heading north from the First Ave S. bridge.

    Comment by Laurie — 10:47 am April 12, 2012 #

  33. 25 MPH is a Bellevue speed limit, suitable for pinched-cheek conservatives, but not for Seattle. 30 is as slow as we go. You cannot expect people getting off a freeway to slow to 25mph, and it causes more problems than it prevents.

    Comment by Fiwa Jcbbb — 11:26 am April 12, 2012 #

  34. WTF-SDOT had an opportunity to correct so many mistakes and actually improve the flow of traffic and now it looks like they’ve just gone and made things more of a cluster and to top it off more dangerous!
    I really don’t understand why West Seattlites aren’t storming the offices with pitchforks.

    Comment by Neighbor — 12:00 pm April 12, 2012 #

  35. I’m fine with the speed limit and the smaller lanes, I’m not so cool with the semis blowing through the barriers with such tight lanes though.

    Comment by RS — 12:09 pm April 12, 2012 #

  36. I’m glad that they’ve finally blocked trucks from entering the viaduct mainline from the Spokane Street entrance. There’s no reason trucks can’t use Spokane Street (below the viaduct) all the way from the port to the entrance by 6th ave/Airport Way.

    Comment by james — 12:26 pm April 12, 2012 #

  37. We also noticed semis driving through barriers to onto the 1st St exit. Not cool.

    Comment by Alex — 12:32 pm April 12, 2012 #

  38. 25 mph is fine. I’d much rather be inches apart at 25mph than inches apart at 35 mph.
    .
    Lots of comments complaining about the inconvenience of driving through a construction zone. My perspective is different. I think it is extraordinary that they have managed such a major construction project while still keeping 4 lanes open.

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 12:51 pm April 12, 2012 #

  39. Agreed, James. I hope the port trucks change their behavior and take the surface street all the way to I-5 permanently as they did not use the upper roadway prior to the lower road being closed for construction. The merge of truck traffic during morning rush hour contributes greatly to the congestion.

    Comment by sw — 12:52 pm April 12, 2012 #

  40. Indeed, Lura. Or would y’all have preferred that they shut the entire thing down until construction was complete?

    Comment by datamuse — 12:58 pm April 12, 2012 #

  41. @Alex and Anne… would you rather have a bunch of semis taking 10 mile detours, further clogging traffic?

    Comment by frank — 1:02 pm April 12, 2012 #

  42. oh gosh!! Truckers do not give a damn about vehicles!! they just go through the barriers that made some people off with disrespect!! I feel that port truckers do control and block people off. be careful drivers, not truckers…

    we need police to watch truckers!

    Comment by samson — 1:03 pm April 12, 2012 #

  43. Almost got hit by a truck flyIng through the barrier. Not cool.

    Comment by Andy — 1:14 pm April 12, 2012 #

  44. Did anyone else get the SDOT flier explaining this lane shift in TODAY’s mail?

    Comment by Chris — 1:37 pm April 12, 2012 #

  45. fiwa jcbbb..going from 45 mph to 25 mph. You are in a car…you have a foot, you have brakes..use both. When on a driving vacation and you come to a town that has a limited speed limit, do you just blow through, and tell them too bad? A lame arsed excuse that 25 is a Bellevue speed limit, and we simply don’t do that?? Oh, please…

    Comment by JanS — 1:51 pm April 12, 2012 #

  46. I can’t decide which is worst – truckers blowing throw the barrier or the semi trying to back down the ramp (early this AM) – Tracy (if you see) did the port/companies not know that closure was happening? Is there anything for DOT to do to make that block more secure – I just can’t help but feel with semi’s blowing through its only a matter of time before a wreck

    Comment by Colleen — 2:05 pm April 12, 2012 #

  47. Yes I got the SDOT Flyer two days ago.
    N. Admiral

    Comment by Snack — 2:16 pm April 12, 2012 #

  48. For those who asked about the accident, I didn’t see it happen, but at about 8:30 was right along side the vehicles.

    4 cars, the two rear most had the heaviest damage. Two front most didn’t seem to have much damage. Front most had her hood up as if she was stalled and the others just smashed in or something.

    Everyone was in their cars when I passed by, except the lady in the car in front. She was in front of her car on the phone, so I don’t know what stage they were in resolving the matter.

    The SUV in the farthest back though, had it’s front end crumpled pretty good, and the back of the car in front of it looked like a pillow after you get up in the morning. As soon as people passed by them, it was smooth sailing at speed limit through I-5 N > I-90 N > I-405 N (Only slow down was through Bellevue)

    Comment by DukeMalisto — 2:16 pm April 12, 2012 #

  49. A semi was trying to BACK down the ramp? Where was the SPD emphasis patrol this morning? Good grief.

    Comment by sw — 2:42 pm April 12, 2012 #

  50. Good point sw. I seem to remember reading a news story/press release about an emphasis patrol on trucks that was going to start a few months ago. Hopefully enough noise has been made and the police will be watching for these stunts tomorrow morning.

    Comment by angel — 3:02 pm April 12, 2012 #

  51. for those not receiving flyers, they were quite thin and probably mixed up with your pizza flyers or easily misdelivered.

    there’s a better way to stay informed. read this blog. also, subscribe to email alerts from SDOT. the SDOT emails are timely, detailed, and then you can be informed of every closure.

    in other words, recommendation here is don’t rely on snail mail in this age of technology or you’ll be surprised, well, like this morning…

    Comment by JonF — 3:20 pm April 12, 2012 #

  52. Love seeing the drivers squirm over this non event that has added zero time to my bus commute. People have to be seriously stuck in the 20th to be driving alone to work every day.. If this affects you, you are part of the problem.

    Comment by Doris — 4:26 pm April 12, 2012 #

  53. Might I ask where you work, Doris? I personally would LOVE to take mass transit but it also means two transfers and an extra hour to my day.

    Comment by james — 4:38 pm April 12, 2012 #

  54. Re: the post by sw about all the outrageous driving behaviors makes my blood boil.
    WHAT the hell?!? These are the type of idiots who cause accidents and invariably emerge unscathed, leaving smashed cars, injuries, and soemtimes, death in their wake.
    Disgusting.

    Comment by ILoveWestSeattle — 4:47 pm April 12, 2012 #

  55. Doris – Sadly public transportation is not as easy or robust as it should be. I would LOVE to take public transportation. Unfortunately, I work in Everett in an area with no buses (I looked).

    Also – what time did your bus leave? I would guess if it was after the accident then it also would have also been caught in traffic.

    Comment by Megan — 8:36 pm April 12, 2012 #

  56. 25mph is for the protection of the construction workers. Seattle police are failing at their jobs as usual for not ticketing/fining the entitled offenders.

    Comment by Rachael — 8:56 pm April 12, 2012 #

  57. I’m actually surprised there hasn’t been more enforcement of the 25mph zone. For a few days there after it went into effect westbound there was a speed trap right at the end. Since then I haven’t seen anything in the last few months.
    .
    Seems like SPD has given up on enforcement through there like they did before the construction started.

    Comment by Jesse — 9:54 pm April 12, 2012 #

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