VIADUCT CLOSURE: With hours to go, one last media megabriefing

(Water Taxi’s West Seattle vessel Doc Maynard at downtown dock, expecting lots of riders during the closure)

11:49 AM: Just wrapped up on the King County Water Taxi dock downtown: One last media megabriefing before the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s two-weeks-or-so closure, now a little over 10 hours away (onramp closures start at 10 pm, so don’t count on using The Viaduct after that). Those on hand for brief statements followed by Q&A included Dave Sowers from WSDOT, Jon Layzer from SDOT, Paul Brodeur from the King County Marine Division (Water Taxi), Victor Obeso from Metro, Bruce Gray from Sound Transit, and Peter McGraw from the Port of Seattle.

We have it all on video and will upload as soon as we’re back at HQ (1:45 pm update – here it is):

Nothing dramatic but a few points of interest we hadn’t heard much about before:

*SDOT mentioned that the “maritime community” has indeed been asked to try to minimize bridge openings during the closure, but as Layzer acknowledged on our followup question, all they can do is ask – maritime use has priority, particularly for the West Seattle “low bridge” (formally the S. Spokane St. Swing Bridge) – UPDATE: Here’s what SDOT is asking the Coast Guard about, for bridges including ours:

The Seattle Department of Transportation would like to request that the US Coast Guard send out a notice to mariners requesting voluntary compliance at each of the following bridges for the period of 12:01 am on April 29, 2016 to 11:59 pm on May 12, 2016:

Ballard Bridge: Weekday voluntary compliance one hour before and one hour after the existing restrictions (i.e. In addition to the existing restrictions, 7-9 am and 4-6 pm weekdays, we are asking for mariners to try and limit the number of bridge openings between 6-7 am, 9-10 am, 3-4 pm & 6-7 pm, whenever possible).

Fremont Bridge: Weekday voluntary compliance one hour before and one hour after the existing restrictions (i.e. In addition to the existing restrictions, 7-9 am and 4-6pm weekdays, we are asking for mariners to try and limit the number of bridge openings between 6-7 am, 9-10 am, 3-4 pm & 6-7 pm, whenever possible).

University Bridge: Weekday voluntary compliance one hour before and one hour after the existing restrictions (i.e. In addition to the existing restrictions, 7-9 am and 4-6pm weekdays, we are asking for mariners to try and limit the number of bridge openings between 6-7 am, 9-10 am, 3-4 pm & 6-7 pm, whenever possible).

Lower Spokane Street Swing Bridge: Weekday voluntary compliance between 6-10 am and 3-7 pm (there are no existing restrictions on this bridge).

*A temporary stop is being added so that WS bus riders can connect to light rail in SODO – it’s marked on the reroute maps (second page of this PDF shows the West Seattle routes)

*If you want to connect to light rail, the Water Taxi is also an option, it was pointed out to us in conversation with the Marine Division reps after the briefing, since you can walk a few blocks east and get to the transit tunnel (King Street Station, also served by Sounder rail, isn’t far either)

*We asked what happens when they get word that the tunneling machine has made it the full 385-foot distance beneath The Viaduct, to the other side. Sowers says WSDOT would then do one more inspection of The Viaduct, along the lines of what they do twice a year, to check it thoroughly for cracks, settling, etc., before deeming it safe to reopen for traffic.

More to come when we’re back at HQ.

1:45 PM UPDATE: We’ve added the briefing video above. Also, since the briefing, WSDOT has added an online update with yet another reminder plus some news that wasn’t part of the briefing. See the full update here; below, the sections that followed the general reminder:

Seattle Tunnel Partners tunneling operations

Seattle Tunnel Partners is making final preparations for their tunnel drive beneath the viaduct. They have told us that the overnight crew will spend the early hours of Friday restarting and testing Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine. Tunneling is expected to begin sometime during the day shift on Friday.

STP expects to start slowly as Bertha digs out of her planned maintenance stop, which is essentially a block of concrete buried in the ground near Yesler Way. The machine must dig through approximately 10 feet of concrete to exit the maintenance stop and enter the soil near the intersection of Yesler and Alaskan Way. Initially, trucks will carry away the excavated material. Crews intend to proceed deliberately throughout the weekend, carefully monitoring the machine’s performance and the surrounding ground as Bertha inches forward.

STP expects to pick up speed early next week. The tunneling operation – tunneling forward, building rings and doing maintenance on the machine – will continue around the clock throughout the closure.

You can track Bertha’s tunneling progress here. We’ll be updating the progress graphic twice each day.

Barging operations to resume

The suspension for cause that has restricted barging operations since January was lifted this week. That means that STP will be allowed to remove excavated soil from the work site via barge using new procedures they developed over the past two months. Having the barging operation back online allows STP to remove excavated material more quickly than trucking the material offsite.

Check out our construction cameras page to get a closer look at the barging operation when tunneling begins on Friday.

Again, we’ll have an update when the closure begins late tonight, as well as expanded coverage of morning and afternoon/evening traffic/transit starting Friday.

34 Replies to "VIADUCT CLOSURE: With hours to go, one last media megabriefing"

  • Susan April 28, 2016 (1:12 pm)

     I am a 63 year old, overweight woman with a fair amount of degenerative arthritis, and I plan to be on my bicycle to work throughout the viaduct closure. I have been biking to work on and off for several years, but will make it my business to be on the bike everyday now. I ride from the Admiral district to Virginia Mason Medical Center on First Hill. If I can do this, a lot of us can do this. I know cycling to work or for errand does not work for everyone, but please at least consider it. I also decided a few other things to help ease things for other commuters: 1) I will get up earlier and ride down Fairmount to the Alki bike trail, thereby staying off Admiral so I will not slow down drivers.  2) After reaching Pioneer Square, I will ride north on the 2nd Ave. protected bike lane, instead of 4th Ave narrow bike lanes. I am slow, and this will allow other faster cyclists to get around me, which is very difficult to do on the 4th Ave. narrow bike lane. I will then have to walk my bike up the hill on Spring St. – too steep for me! 3) I will do my best to be helpful to new cyclists with questions on routes, etc. I should add that I already obey all the traffic laws/lights, etc, wear bright clothing, use a crazy number of very bright lights, and keep my bike in excellent working condition!

     I would like to challenge my fellow West Seattle neighbors. What will YOU personally do to help us all get to work and school safely? 






    • J242 April 28, 2016 (5:23 pm)

      If I had a bicycle I would gladly take it to the water taxi, then SLU and catch a company shuttle to our east side campus but since I don’t, I’m just going to work from home and keep one more vehicle out of traffic. :)

  • Blinkyjoe April 28, 2016 (1:56 pm)

    GREAT JOB SUSAN!!! Creative problem-solving and a positive can-do attitude are on full display. 

    I’ll be on my bike or on the water taxi during the closure. I’m kinda looking forward to seeing what actually transpires with regard to Traffic. I think tomorrow will be a wash, the true measure I think will be Monday the 2nd.

  • WS Wanderer April 28, 2016 (1:58 pm)

    Thanks for providing a solution, Susan, rather than simply complaining about the closure.

    I’ll be out of town during half of the planned closure but while in town, I’m working from home and not scheduling any meetings or appts beyond WS.

  • sc April 28, 2016 (2:19 pm)

    I agree with Blinkyjoe.  There will be many people taking vacation or sick leave tomorrow.  

    Monday will be the true test.  I’m very happy to be retired!

  • Mr E April 28, 2016 (2:56 pm)

    I wish I could work from home for the next 2 weeks but my company only allows 2 days per month. My manager said I can come into work late, so there’s that. (-_-^)

    If my building had showers I would seriously consider biking to Bellevue every day, if only to avoid the traffic nightmare that starts tomorrow.

  • RS April 28, 2016 (3:47 pm)

    Susan, you rock!

  • beanie gee April 28, 2016 (3:58 pm)

    It’s unfortunate that the lower bridge STILL has “voluntary compliance” for restrictions during peak times, even with the high number of bikers who will use the bridge as their commute option during these next two weeks. Nothing like a 20 minute delay waiting for a sailboat to cruise through during rush hour. :/

    • weiss April 28, 2016 (5:03 pm)

      Has this actually happened? I’ve been riding over the bridge for 4 years at peak rush hour times in the am and pm and I’ve never seen it open for a sailboat…… empty barge however……..

    • chemist April 28, 2016 (8:05 pm)

      A little burden must come to us all, even those who use the low bridge.

  • Joe Szilagyi April 28, 2016 (4:19 pm)

    Seen this latest 11th hour missive from WSDOT? Good grief.

    • WSB April 28, 2016 (4:25 pm)

      That is not a “missive” from WSDOT. In fact, I asked the question that brought the answer at the briefing (you can hear it in our video). My question: Once you hear the machine has made it to the other side, what do you have to do before you can reopen the Viaduct? It was a simple answer: They have to inspect the Viaduct before they can reopen it when the drilling is done. That’s exactly what I expected they would say, but had to ask it anyway. It’s in our story and it’s in the video.

      P.S. Dave Sowers of WSDOT also said they’ll be inspecting it throughout the drilling-beneath time, so this won’t be a start-from-scratch type inspection at the end.

      • DarkHawke April 28, 2016 (5:42 pm)

        So is there a worst-case-scenario plan for if the digging renders the viaduct unsafe for use?  Maybe they could fast-track the northbound downtown off-ramp from 99 to mitigate at least some of the traffic?  And on that topic, when this debac, er. project is completed, will there be a southbound on-ramp to 99 south of the tunnel exit?  That might help cut some of the traffic the new and less capable underground roadway will put on I-5 and downtown surface streets.

        • WSB April 28, 2016 (6:06 pm)

          DH, yes, there is a plan. It was discussed not all that long ago at City Council, I believe, and if I had more time, I’d go find it in the archives, gotta crash something out and then go to a meeting. The plan is the one drawn up in case of Viaduct closure pre-alternative in case of a variety of circumstances .. earthquake, for example …

    • J242 April 28, 2016 (5:27 pm)

      Just watch Bertha break down again under the Viaduct and we have it shut down for 3 months while they try to figure out how to fix it again. This is such a raging sinkhole of money & time.  :(

      • WSB April 28, 2016 (6:07 pm)

        If Bertha breaks down beneath the Viaduct and the Viaduct itself is not damaged, they will likely just reopen it. That’s been said by WSDOT repeatedly. It’s in the FAQ, too. (added – the verbiage from that: “WSDOT would first ensure that the viaduct was safe for daily use. The viaduct is being monitored 24/7 by a high-tech system that watches for any motion or settlement in the structure (this video provides an overview of that system). Once inspectors determined that the viaduct was safe, WSDOT would work to reopen the structure until the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners, was able to resume mining. WSDOT would continue to work with partner agencies to keep people moving while the viaduct was closed.” )

    • KM April 28, 2016 (5:51 pm)

      Honestly, half of me doesn’t expect it to ever reopen at all. (The other half is kinder)

      • cj April 29, 2016 (12:41 am)

        Same here.

  • Ken April 28, 2016 (4:32 pm)

    I won’t be remotely surprised if they find some excuse to never reopen the Viaduct.  

  • Meyer April 28, 2016 (5:53 pm)

    Does anyone know how much longer the C line will take to get to downtown (either the Seneca stop or the Pike st stop)?

    • DarkHawke April 28, 2016 (7:04 pm)

      I would imagine a minimum of 10 extra minutes, and perhaps 20.  I’m going off of times when the 120 was rerouted in a similar fashion from going north on 99, but that doesn’t count the added traffic with the viaduct entirely shut down.  That and the odd addition of a stop at the light rail SODO station.  I don’t understand why anyone would take the extra time to get off of a crowded bus and get on an already crowded light rail train, or vice-versa.  Even one more stop added, given the large amount of added surface street traffic, can’t be helpful in getting the “RapidRide” buses to and from in a timely fashion.

      • David April 28, 2016 (8:09 pm)

        I don’t think the addition of the stop at 4th and S. Lander is odd at all.  The bus doesn’t have to go out of its way to get there, and I’m pretty sure that continuing the trip on light rail will be much more efficient than traveling north on 4th into downtown.  4th is going to get especially bad north of I-90.  I’ve ended up sitting through many traffic light cycles between I-90 and Yesler on days the viaduct was open.  I hate to see what this stretch of 4th will be like with all the extra traffic.  Light rail will take 10 minutes into downtown (University Street Station).  You’ll be lucky to get there by bus from SODO station in 20 during peak commuting hours. 

  • KT April 28, 2016 (7:28 pm)

    Two weeks to tunnel 385 feet.  Wow.  

  • Brenda April 28, 2016 (9:48 pm)

    Go Susan! I wish I had a bike to get to work in Bellevue. I’m going to work from home as much as I can. It’s going to be weird to be “confined” to West Seattle for the next couple weeks. I’ll definitely be relying on WSB for things to do in the neighborhood both weekdays and weekends including coffee meet ups for professionals who are working from West Seattle during the closure. I’m going to miss the buzz of being in the office.

  • heather April 28, 2016 (10:04 pm)

    Susan, your comment pretty much made my evening :)

  • dcn April 28, 2016 (10:19 pm)

    @Darkhawke, I was wondering the same thing about a southbound on-ramp south of the tunnel entrance , so I looked up this project map of the viaduct replacement:

    There will be a southbound on-ramp from Alaskan Way S, and it looks like you will be able to get to it from S. Dearborn St. I was happy to see this, since southbound 1st Ave S to the West Seattle Bridge on-ramp is very slow-going during the evening commute.

  • dsa April 28, 2016 (10:42 pm)

    Oh my, that KING article above says “the crown of the drilling machine will only be fifteen feet below the foundation of the viaduct”.  I am positive that by foundation, they mean piling.  We better hope and pray those old pile driving records are accurate as to depth as fifteen feet is not much wiggle room.   Otherwise Bertha will chew into another steel casing.  Which could damage her and the viaduct both.

    • WSB April 29, 2016 (4:45 am)

      WSDOT has been talking about the 15-foot gap – at one point, not the entire stretch – for a long time. There’s a graphic of that somewhere.

  • Willistheclown April 29, 2016 (5:47 am)

    My guess is that – assuming everything goes as planned – this will take closer to one week then two.  They are using two so that they look like heroes when finished “early”.  The whackos will also use this to “prove” that we can do without the lanes because traffic will be fine.  people can adjust for one week or even two.  It’s not a reasonable basis for argument for a longer period of time – similar to the I-5 shutdown a few years ago.

  • sam-c April 29, 2016 (10:04 am)

    At their last pre Viadoom media briefing, did they mention any contingency plans for post baseball game water taxi?  ie, the last post game trip is at 10:30, and with 7ish pm games ending around 10ish pm, there’s only one post game trip. I mean, maybe there aren’t that many(more than 280?)  M’s fans in WS taking the water taxi that want to stay to the bitter end of the game, but I have no idea….With flexible work schedules, people can make adjustments, but with baseball games- there’s a specific end time. I guess if there are concerns people can catch the earlier taxi…..  

    • WSB April 29, 2016 (10:14 am)

      Sam, I’ll try asking the WT folk by e-mail, as I don’t know if we’re going to make the 11:30 am phone briefing. Will amend this reply with whatever I find out. I don’t know if their SOP is to hold the boat until the game actually ends or not.

      • sam-c April 29, 2016 (10:47 am)

        cool! thanks for doing all the dirty work for all of west seattle

        • WSB April 29, 2016 (11:11 am)

          From Water Taxi customer-service manager Greg Lerner: “We do leave at 10:30 pm regardless of the game status. If we did reach capacity, we would come back and get the overloaded passengers.”

          • sam-c April 29, 2016 (11:23 am)

            great, thanks! don’t have to worry about being stranded if they are at capacity for the 10:30 sailing.

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