COLUMBIA STREET: Work starts next week to get ready for its future as a 2-way transit pathway once tunnel opens

What started on Columbia Street downtown with a bus-stop relocation will continue with major work that starts next week. Since so many West Seattleites use Columbia to get to The Viaduct, we got a preview today in a conversation with Metro and SDOT reps.

The project is officially called the Columbia Street 2-Way Transit Corridor. Columbia will eventually be the main route that transit from Highway 99 and Alaskan Way gets into and out of downtown. It’ll be used three different ways in three phases over the span of about 4 years, from fall 2018 to summer 2022, but first, here’s what’s going to happen starting next Monday:

*Columbia will be narrowed between 1st and 3rd Avenues, to two travel lanes. No on-street parking in work zones. Buses will follow the same routes they do now. Work will start on the north side of the street between 1st and 2nd, with a lane closed around the clock (minimal impacts expected for the sidewalks), and some full-weekend street closures – no dates yet.

*The street will get new concrete pavement to better handle the increased bus traffic that’s in its future.

*While the street’s dug up, the city also will replace the old water main beneath both blocks of Columbia from 1st to 3rd – they’ve been working to synergize that kind of upgrade with major road projects, to reduce the chance it’ll have to be done later.

*This phase of the work is expected to continue into June 2018. When it’s done, Columbia will go back to its current configuration – the 2-way configuration will be done in the future.

So all this work will be done between now and next June. The three phases of how bus routing will be handled are:

*During the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s month-or-so pre-demolition closure while Highway 99 is being connected to the tunnel, possibly as soon as November 2018, there’s a “SODO surface routing” that’s being planned, as shown on the map. This will affect Metro Routes 21x, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, C Line. (yellow on the map)

*While the Viaduct is being demolished, roughly February 2019-February 2020, 1st Avenue routing into the heart of downtown is planned. (blue on the map)

*Once the Viaduct is demolished and more work on Columbia west of 1st is complete, the permanent 2-way pathway into and out of downtown will be operational. Columbia will be the connector between Alaskan Way and 3rd Avenue. (green on the map)

But again, in the short run, all you’ll notice is the construction starting next Monday. Drivers who want to avoid the resulting congestion on Columbia will want to get to the Viaduct on-ramp via 1st, from the south or north, or avoid the Viaduct and access the West Seattle Bridge other ways. Bus riders already have seen their stop relocated, and this won’t affect it.

9 Replies to "COLUMBIA STREET: Work starts next week to get ready for its future as a 2-way transit pathway once tunnel opens"

  • 120 rider December 6, 2017 (6:45 pm)

    for the love of sanity, use the busway for all WS buses in and out of downtown!!!  if they cant pull their heads out to accomplish that, then do the next best thing and route all buses to/from the SODO light rail station.  BIG FAT DUH!!!

  • Dan December 6, 2017 (10:06 pm)

    “get to the Viaduct on-ramp via 1st”.  Good luck with that. 

  • CAM December 7, 2017 (5:11 am)

    Please, please, please make those buses stop at prefontaine and Columbia like the D and E lines do while they are using the SODO route! They drive right past the stops when rerouted and it’s so frustrating. 

    Also, question, the statement that Lander will be under construction through the end of 2019, is that referring to construction of the bridge to go over the tracks?

    • WSB December 7, 2017 (7:19 am)

      That’s the only Lander construction project I know of.

  • Olivist December 7, 2017 (8:46 am)

    Do the people making these decisions ever ride the affected routes?  The buses turning right from 3rd > Columbia generally cross ALL the lanes on Columbia in making the turn.  

    And now they’re saying buses are going to be going east and west on Columbia, along with buses turning onto Columbia from 3rd??  That’s going to be fun. 

  • Tim S. December 7, 2017 (11:05 am)

    This is going to be a mess

  • Sue H December 7, 2017 (11:19 am)

    You wrote that “Columbia will eventually be the main route that transit from Highway 99 and Alaskan Way gets into and out of downtown.” And yet it’s going to be only one lane each way? Are they insane? In the evenings it will back up Third Avenue as all the buses try to turn into one lane. Fun times!

  • Alan December 11, 2017 (8:59 am)

    This makes me want to move away from West Seattle. I have driven Columbia almost every day for the last five years coming from Belltown/downtown and have watched all the changes happen. The Second Ave mess is a glaring example of how not to design a major roadway through a city and I started having to use 5th, which has traditionally been the worse route but I can’t drive Second anymore, its unbearable. You can’t even drive Second at night or on the weekends now through Belltown because of there being only 2 usable lanes, the left turn lane back-up and the fact that all the ride share drivers just stop in the middle of the road to drop off and pick up riders, they have no other option, has created a dangerous and very slow moving roadway.  I understand that there is an ultimate goal in mind and I am trying to be patient and find alternate routes, but we are at least FOURTEEN years away from light rail in West Seattle and there are no more alternate routes left to use. What do we do until then. Don’t tell me to get on 99 from Western because that has been a mess for years. I have to drive at least 3 days a week as I use my vehicle for work. I’m trying to be patient but its beginning to seem pointless. 

  • Mark Schletty December 11, 2017 (9:50 am)

    Columbia gets torn up now, making it just about impossible to use 99 to get home. Fauntlerory project soon, making it just about impossible to get to or from bridge. Viaduct comes down and Columbia becomes main way for current 99 users to get into and out of downtown, but Columbia becomes one lane each way making it just about impossible to use. No on ramps to bridge at 4th or 6th plus 1st Ave torn up for streetcar, making using 1st Ave on ramp very difficult. Bus tunnel closing dumping all buses on downtown streets. Reducing 4th or 5th traffic lanes for bike lanes. Exit off bridge to 4th and then to downtown becomes only real option for us and that will overload 4th to the point of making it just about impossible to use.  West Seattle is so screwed. Watch our property values plunge when buyers figure out that you can’t live in West Seattle and work downtown. Thank you Kubly.

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