West Seattle, Washington
ORIGINAL REPORT, 12:20 PM: Almost didn’t make it to today’s multi-department briefing on Viaduct-closure traffic … because of the traffic. The bridge was still backed up to the crest at 10:30 am, and 1st Avenue S. was bumper-to-bumper. First highlight, the daily late-morning tunneling update:
149 feet of the 385 to get the machine clear of the underside of the Viaduct. But, Dave Sowers of WSDOT told us and the other media at this morning’s briefing (held as usual on the downtown Water Taxi dock, because of the Viaduct backdrop), they don’t want to predict when they’ll be done with the under-the-Viaduct phase – let alone speculate on whether there’s any chance of finishing that sooner than the “about two weeks” timeframe. The ground remains stable around and over the machine, Sowers said, and everything “looks great.”
No Seattle Tunnel Partners rep at this briefing (unlike the one via phone yesterday, which was focused on tunneling), since this was supposed to be about traffic and transit. We asked Victor Obeso from Metro if the afternoon problems headed this way were going to lead to any changes in the southbound routes that have been getting stuck behind trains at Lander. Short answer: No. Longer answer: They’re continuing to monitor and evaluate.
More to come in a bit. We also recorded it all on video so you can watch for yourself once we have it uploaded. (UPDATE: Here’s the video:)
ADDED 1:36 PM: Other toplines – unlike the Water Taxi, where passengers can be very precisely counted, other modes of travel can only estimate trends since the closure began. Bus usage in general is estimated to be up a single-digit percentage overall, Metro says, but they ran more than 70 extra trips the first three days. Sound Transit, 10 percent for light rail, 15 percent for Sounder trains. Something else that’s up: Jon Layzer of SDOT noted a big increase in “blocking incidents,” although deployment of Incident Response Teams and other people to help clear them has been helpful.
Anything they’ve learned so far that will be kept post-closure? he was asked. While he didn’t commit to anything, he did promise they would have an “after-action report” to look at such things.
(Added: Newly released WSDOT video recorded by a drone inside the tunnel and tunneling machine)
12:06 PM: “Tunneling is going very well.” So said Chris Dixon of Seattle Tunnel Partners, the state’s contractor on the Highway 99 tunnel, during a media conference call wrapped up a short time ago. He said there’s been no problems – “no adverse effects, no settlement, no movement” either with the machine or with the ground through which it’s tunneling and the first Viaduct “bent” under which it’s gone. As for the distance they’ve gone – 117 feet so far, of the 380 that will get them to the other side of the Viaduct’s underside – he said it’s about what they’ve expected. We’ll have full details in a bit.
12:30 PM: More details from the call: They’ve now mined 17 “rings” since leaving “Safe Haven 3,” the stop before going under the Viaduct. The “bent” under which the machine has gone is numbered 98W – “W” for west, and it’s now under 97W, with 96E next, “the column in the intersection of Yesler and Alaskan Way … after we pass that, (they go under) 95E, the foundation on the east side.” The next one is the one to which the machine gets within 15 feet, as much mentioned prior to this phase of tunneling. They’re expecting to average about 4 rings a day but Dixon warned not to be alarmed if a day shows less progress than that, because they are stopping the machine here and there along the way for maintenance and for replenishment of the soil conditioners they’re using while moving ahead – the first day of this phase was 1 ring, then three on the 30th, seven on the 1st, and six yesterday.
Its average speed, Dixon said, is 30 millimeters per second, with the capacity to go twice that fast, and indeed they expect to go faster once the machine is past this phase – averaging six rings a day in the next phase. In response to another question, he stressed again, “we’re right where we anticipated we would be.” And he said they’re far enough out of “Safe Haven 3” that there’s no longer any concern of a sinkhole or other disturbance atop that area.
No traffic updates, since this focus was on the tunneling itself, but WSDOT did say, don’t get complacent and go back to your old ways – “please find different ways to be out there ‘off peak’.”
P.S. We’ll again have special afternoon/evening commute coverage here on WSB, starting around 4 pm. In the meantime, the commute conversation continues in comments following our Tuesday morning coverage.
11:49 AM: We’re just off what will likely be a daily media conference call with WSDOT and others as the Highway 99 tunneling closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct continues. Topline: The tunneling machine has now made it through 78+ feet of the 380+ feet that it will take to get to the other side of the underside of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and that’s getting close to twenty percent of the way, points out WSDOT’s deputy program administrator, Dave Sowers. Its cutterhead is indeed beneath The Viaduct, between columns 98 and 97, to be specific.
12:06 PM: WSDOT asked reporters to hold off on most technical tunneling questions until tomorrow’s conference call, when they expect to have contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners represented on the call. So that left traffic. They’ve made “a lot of little adjustments,” said a WSDOT traffic engineer, not only the ones mentioned in yesterday’s online progress report – more parking restrictions on 4th to keep more of the roadway open for traffic flow, and protected left-turn signals on 1st at Horton and Hanford – but also changes in signal timing today on 1st and 4th.
Aside from the Water Taxi numbers we’ve been reporting firsthand from Seacrest today, they don’t have any other data yet on how many more people are using transit, but, said Jon Layzer of SDOT, they are “trying to get information.” Overall, the assessment: “So far, progress is encouraging at the moment,” but they say it’s too soon to try to estimate or speculate whether the under-the-Viaduct tunneling will be done early, on time, or otherwise.
8:45 PM: The evening tunneling update is up – 91 feet now, and 14 rings. Next update, around 4 am, and WSDOT plans to continue updating one to three times a day here. We have updated the graphic atop this story to the WSDOT map that shows the new numbers.
Just in from WSDOT, the update for Alaskan Way Viaduct Closure, Day 3, with tunneling-machine progress and traffic-flow changes:
Welcome to day three of the #99closure. After a slow and deliberate departure from the planned maintenance stop near Yesler Way, Seattle Tunnel Partners’ tunneling crews picked up speed in accordance with their plan for tunneling under the viaduct. As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, had mined 39 feet of the approximately 385 feet of tunnel that must be completed before the viaduct reopens to traffic. STP determines the appropriate rate to mine safely and mining rates will vary as the machine passes underneath the viaduct.
Visit our tracking page to see a map showing Bertha’s progress.
Expect a more challenging commute Monday since Mondays are a traditionally heavier traffic day than Fridays. Go to our maps and resources page or see our travel alternatives handout to explore options other than driving. WSDOT continues to run a 24-hour-per-day command center with constant, real-time communication taking place with other agencies. And WSDOT’s Transportation Management Center also has extended hours with up to 12 additional Incident Response Teams ready to clear state roads of incidents as quickly as possible.
The Seattle Traffic Operations Center examined Friday’s commute and is adjusting by extending parking restrictions on Fourth Avenue South from peak periods only to all-day restrictions to help transit and traffic flow. In addition, the Seattle Department of Transportation added protected left turn signals at First Avenue South and South Hanford Street as well as First Avenue South and South Holgate Street to improve traffic flow.
SDOT will continue to work with the Seattle Police Department to monitor and adjust signals as necessary to maximize flow.
4th was a major trouble spot on Friday, according to commute reports from commenters during our morning and afternoon/evening coverage. We’ll be starting traffic/transit coverage early again tomorrow, 5 am.
On the second full day of the two-weeks-or-so Alaskan Way Viaduct closure, a “precaution” until the Highway 99 tunneling machine finishes going beneath the AWV, here’s the brief update WSDOT just published:
After completing the first ring, STP crews have been preparing the machine to move out of the concrete of the maintenance stop. The transition from concrete into soil is an important part of tunneling under the viaduct and STP crews have been working to ensure that the transition goes smoothly. Once the machine is fully prepared to mine through this transition, crews will advance slowly and deliberately.
So as of this update, no additional distance has been added to the first-day 6.5-foot tally. Next update is expected about this time tomorrow; still almost 380 feet left to go to get all the way beneath The Viaduct.
Looking for traffic cams/infolinks? Go here
That map is from the first official progress report on the Highway 99 tunneling machine since the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure began. Here’s the WSDOT announcement we just received:
As of 6 p.m. Friday, Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, had dug 6.5 feet of the approximately 385 feet of tunnel that must be completed before the Alaskan Way Viaduct reopens to traffic. This pace is what we expected. The machine will proceed slowly and deliberately throughout the first few days. Visit our tracking page to see a map showing Bertha’s progress.
Bertha must dig through a few more feet of concrete to exit the maintenance stop before she starts to dig through the soil near the intersection of Yesler and Alaskan Way. Look for another progress update Saturday afternoon.
WSDOT has said that the machine will be digging around the clock while it goes beneath The Viaduct. Tonight’s full update, including the afternoon traffic overview, is here. Here are our coverage links from Day 1:
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.
With just one day left until the two-weeks-or-so Alaskan Way Viaduct closure starts, a precautionary closure while the tunneling machine goes under the structure, a few points to mention/reiterate tonight:
*WSDOT says the onramps will “start closing” at 10 pm Thursday night. Having driven on The Viaduct to and from a meeting north of downtown in the past few hours, we can confirm that the signage we saw at ramps tonight all carried that message, as does the official infopage at 99closure.org.
*The closure is expected to be in full effect by midnight Thursday night. (Some messaging says 11:59 pm Thursday, some says 12:01 am Friday, but basically, it’s midnight tomorrow night.)
*Surface streets/sidewalks/paths under The Viaduct are expected to remain open.
*WSDOT says it’s expecting to update its “tunneling progress” webpage around 11 am and 8 pm weekdays, 2:30 pm weekends, during the closure. Its contractor plans to tunnel 24/7 while going under The Viaduct. But, as photojournalists were told during Monday’s tunnel photo-op, it’ll be slow going at the start.
*If you still have a question, it might be answered on WSDOT’s FAQ page. If not, please comment, and we’ll chase down an answer (reps of every agency involved, and then some, are having another megabriefing tomorrow morning).
Before the Highway 99 tunneling machine starts its dive beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct, closing it for two weeks or so starting early Friday, WSDOT gave local news media one more chance for a look inside what’s been done so far. Christopher Boffoli was there for WSB.
Monday afternoon’s hour-long tour was his first visit to the tunnel in more than a year and a half, since September 2014 (see his report here), nine months after the machine stalled (eventually restarting just before last Christmas).
This time, tour participants were NOT taken up to the tunneling machine, which has gone 1,560 feet so far.
The trip to get beneath and clear of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be almost exactly a fourth of that distance, 385 feet.
While WSDOT promises online progress reports at least once a day once the tunneling machine is on its way, it also is warning not to expect much at the start – the one-sheet given to those on today’s news-media tour says contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners told WSDOT that “mining will be SLOW at first” as the first 10 feet will go through the protective concrete block built at “Safe Haven 3” where the machine has been stopped for six weeks.
More tunnel facts: 232 tunnel rings, each weighing 10 tons, are installed so far; reaching the end of the planned tunnel route will require about 1,450 of those rings.
Christopher says today’s tour “was much more limited than the last one” (the September 2014 tour mentions above) – “this time we were simply walked down to the end of the tunnel and taken about midway under the machine (into the area where all of the trailing gear brings the concrete sections forward for placement) and then were walked back out.”
By the way, WSDOT has completed 400 feet of roadway inside the 1,560 feet of tunnel that’s done so far.
We don’t know yet exactly what time The Viaduct will be shut down on Friday morning – WSDOT says it depends on when Seattle Tunnel Partners are ready to start up the machine. But the plan is for it to be long before the morning commute. If you still haven’t figured out how you’re going to get around without The Viaduct, find all the closure-related info at 99closure.org.
11:55 AM: We’ve just left the downtown waterfront, where media reps were invited to an update and Q&A with city, county (Metro and Water Taxi), and state transportation reps on the first weekday since the big announcement that the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunneling-related closure will start April 29th. We recorded it all on video that we’ll add here when uploaded (12:54 pm update – here it is):
(Also), here are a few toplines beyond what we and others already have reported:
*Extra Water Taxi parking: The biggest added temporary lot off Harbor Avenue will be Pier 2, with its entry across from the 7-11 in the 2400 block of Harbor and room for 200+ cars. It will be open for vehicle entry/exit 5:45 am-9:15 am weekday mornings and 4 pm-7:15 pm afternoon/evenings – it’s a secured lot so at midday, it’ll be closed and you won’t be able to get to your vehicle, so it’s not a good choice unless you are headed out for a full workday. It’s also expected that 120 cars will be able to park along Harbor south of Seacrest, on the water side, because of temporary overnight parking restrictions. And about 40 spaces will be available on the SW Bronson Way street end south of Salty’s on Alki (WSB sponsor).
*Larger Water Taxi shuttles: In addition to a special shuttle that will run continuously during those hours between the Pier 2 parking lot and Seacrest, the WT shuttle buses on routes 773 and 775 will be upsized to 39-passenger buses.
*Speaking of Water Taxi shuttles: A commenter had asked why the Morgan Junction leg of the route is only at midday. The King County Marine Division says that’s the only time of day they can run it because of the gap between Water Taxi runs from Seacrest.
*Special Viaduct-closure-related brochure with West Seattle Water Taxi-specific info: See it here.
*In case more buses are needed: Metro will have 11 more buses with 22 scheduled operator shifts, and a potential of 135 added hours, depending on how things go.
*UberHop: This new vanpool-type alternative will have a pickup/dropoff point at Don Armeni Boat Ramp, the county says.
*The biggest message: Plan ahead, plan ahead, plan ahead. And if you possibly can shift out of commuting during the usual peak hours – via a temporary schedule change, working from home, whatever – please do. And even if the first day doesn’t seem so bad (it won’t, because people really will try something different), don’t just go back to your old ways on day 2 or day 3. They’re continuing to promote 99closure.org as the multi-agency with info you need to plan, now and when the closure’s under way.
We also asked the SDOT rep why, now that the date is set for this, they aren’t considering delaying the Fauntleroy Expressway-related bridge and lane closures until the Viaduct closure is over. SDOT’s rep first said they didn’t think there would be a problem because the bridge closures are at night only. We noted that the surface Spokane St. lane closures UNDER the west end of the bridge include some daytime work and he said he would “take that back” (to HQ) for consideration.
12:54 PM: Video of the briefing/Q&A, unedited, is now added toward the start of this story. As the closure approaches, we’ll continue with previews and updates, and if you have questions, we’ll do our best to get and publish the answers.
(See this map on the WSDOT site by going here)
JUST IN, 1:59 PM: WSDOT promised we’d get two weeks notice of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s two-weeks-or-so tunneling shutdown, and that notice just arrived: The state says the closure will start before the morning commute on Friday, April 29th. Here’s the full announcement.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW: We’ll be adding to this over the next hour or so – backstory plus useful info links.
*How to lessen the pain (advice and links)
*As you’ve probably already read in previews here and elsewhere, specific plans include:
• WSDOT and SDOT will actively monitor highway and street traffic, adjusting signal timing, updating electronic message boards and
deploying additional incident response teams as needed.
• King County Metro is rerouting 12 routes and deploying 22 buses to help maintain schedules.
[See page 2 of this PDF for West Seattle specifics including a larger version of the map above.]
• Police officers will provide manual traffic control at key chokepoint intersections.
• King County Water Taxi will add five extra round trips to its Vashon route and will provide additional parking and connector shuttle capacity for West Seattle route passengers. [See this brochure for info on extra parking, etc.]
We also will beef up our regular traffic coverage for closer watch of West Seattle-tailored alternate routes and more during the closure. At least one alternate route is available for this, that wasn’t available for 2011’s “Viadoom” 8-day closure – the South Park Bridge.
BACKSTORY: It was almost exactly 3 years ago that we first reported a Viaduct closure was possible when the tunneling machine went beneath it, thanks to a tip from West Seattle Bike Connections president Don Brubeck.
REMINDER: As announced earlier today, that’s not the only closure West Seattleites will be dealing with – the Fauntleroy Expressway bearing-pad-re-replacement closures will start two days earlier.
10:10 AM: During the City Council meeting that just got under way – as we’re reported and previewed – councilmembers are due to get an update on the Highway 99 tunnel project and the upcoming related Alaskan Way Viaduct closure. However, it doesn’t appear the long-awaited closure start date will be part of that briefing. WSDOT has just published the first official update in a week in a half and it again reiterates that date “isn’t yet known”:
Seattle Tunnel Partners has now completed more than 100 shifts of hyperbaric work inside the SR 99 tunneling machine. One of their biggest tasks – inspecting and replacing cutting tools on the machine’s face – is now complete.
Cutting tools are expected to wear down over time, and replacing them is a normal part of tunneling. Because most of the machine’s tools were replaced during the repair effort, STP chose to replace only 11 of the more than 700 tools they inspected in the weeks since the machine reached its planned maintenance stop near Yesler Way.
STP still has some routine maintenance left to complete. They have told us that the machine is functioning as intended and will soon be ready to tunnel beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct. WSDOT will close the viaduct for approximately two weeks to allow the machine to pass beneath the structure. We will provide the public with advance notice of the closure, but the start date isn’t yet known. It will depend on how long the remaining maintenance takes to complete.
The update published on the WSDOT website also includes a reminder of the closure-plans website 99closure.org.
Meantime, we’ll update here when the council briefing gets under way (scheduled for 10:25 am – about 15 minutes from now) and will add any additional news that emerges.
10:28 AM: The briefing is starting – you can watch live via Seattle Channel, seattlechannel.org or cable channel 21.
(ADDED TUESDAY: Seattle Channel video of entire briefing)
They’re leading off with a “litigation update” – saying they’re “negotiating with STP about issues in dispute on the project,” so they might not be able to answer all questions.
WSDOT’s Todd Trepanier mentions STP bringing in new top managers from an overseas project and Councilmember Mike O’Brien breaks in to say “that we haven’t had the A-team on this since day one just kinda blows my mind.”
Back to what’s happening now, in addition to what WSDOT said this morning (see top of this story), Trepanier says, “(The contractors) still have quite a bit of work to do within the machine at the Safe Haven 3 location” where it’s stopped now.
10:48 AM: Now the briefing has moved to the closure preps, which have included weekly coordination meetings, WSDOT says. They reiterate that they’re committed to giving two weeks notice once the date has been chosen, which hasn’t happened yet, because as mentioned earlier, there’s still a lot to do. “Within the next month” remains their target. They’re reiterating that it’s a precautionary closure but its potential benefits would include quick access to the Viaduct if necessary.
It’s been reiterated, also, that the Viaduct itself is the only thing planned for closure – surface streets/sidewalks will remain open, though if something requires those to be closed, they have a contingency plan for that too. Meantime, the tunneling will continue around the clock during the trip under the Viaduct, with two 12-hour shifts instead of two 10-hour shifts as has been the contractor’s practice.
Trepanier says they will have a 24-hour command center open during the under-the-Viaduct tunneling, including city reps, as they make decisions bout managing traffic as well as tunneling operations. And they’re planning three conference calls a day.
11:05 AM: For the city, SDOT director Scott Kubly is speaking. The city will have incident-response teams and additional messaging signs. He also says that besides working with Metro and the Water Taxi, the city is “encouraging and working with” Uber and Lyft regarding their carpooling services. Council President Bruce Harrell asks followup saying city must be careful not to show favoritism over legacy taxi services, etc. Kubly says the city will add signal-timing engineer in Transportation Ops Center 6:30 am-8 pm during closure so there can be quick responses if intersection problems emerge. “It’s going to be a challenging commute … removing 60,000 vehicles and 30,000 transit riders off the Viaduct,” he says. Councilmember Lisa Herbold asks who’s in charge of the public notices regarding all this; she’s told the communications overview is coming up.
11:12 AM: Now it’s Metro’s turn. As previously announced, northbound reroutes are going on 4th Avenue. Herbold asks if the 5th Avenue busway was considered. “There’s a limited capacity (on that),” is the reply.
Councilmember Lorena González (a West Seattle resident) asks about the plans for getting people to the dock to use the Water Taxi without getting caught in the parking crunch down there. Though it hasn’t been detailed during this briefing, that’s mentioned toward the end of the slide deck (which you can see here). And the briefing wraps at 11:22. (We’ll add the archived meeting video atop this story once Seattle Channel has it up, likely by end of the day.)
Still no date set for the ~2-week Alaskan Way Viaduct closure that’s planned when the Highway 99 tunneling machine goes beneath it. But WSDOT is continuing to make presentations about the preparations. Monday morning, the slide deck you see above will be part of a briefing given to the City Council. Nothing major or new in it, but it includes graphics showing bus rerouting plans as well as extra parking for West Seattle Water Taxi riders. In the slide deck, you’ll again see the promise that advance notice of the closure will be provided; this past Wednesday in West Seattle, WSDOT reps were at the Southwest District Council meeting to talk about closure preps, and they reiterated the intent for two weeks’ warning. If that holds true, it means we’re getting closer to having the closure in May. SWDC members expressed concern that the closure would slide into the summer months, pointing out how busy Harbor Avenue gets on summer nights even without potentially hundreds of commuters returning to their vehicles. Monday’s scheduled briefers are Todd Trepanier and Dave Sowers from WSDOT; SDOT director Scott Kubly; and Victor Obeso from King County Metro. The council briefing meeting starts at 9:30 am Monday, and this is on the agenda for 10:25 am; you can watch live via Seattle Channel, cable 21 or seattlechannel.org.
New information today about the crab-truck crash that closed the northbound Alaskan Way Viaduct for hours on Monday (WSB coverage here): Seattle Police say the driver is expected to be cited for negligent driving – going too fast and making an “unsafe lane change” toward the south end of the elevated section. Fine: $550, says SDOT, whose Commercial Vehicle Enforcement section is taking the lead on the investigation; so far, we’re told, it appears to have been strictly driver error, not a problem with the truck’s load. What happened to those spilled boxes of crab? Basically, SPD spokesperson Sgt. Sean Whitcomb told us, it had to be discarded – either to garbage or compost – once it had fallen onto a roadway, there’s no way to verify it’s safe enough even to donate, let alone sell; the city is “not in the business of subjecting someone to (potentially) contaminated goods.” And, unlike the fish-truck crash that blocked southbound 99 almost exactly one year ago, salvaging the load was not a priority – clearing the road was. “Our efforts were centered on just getting (the truck) off (the roadway),” Whitcomb stressed. This incident was a big test of the plan the city announced last August, four-plus months after the fish-truck crash exposed glaring flaws in coordination between city agencies like SDOT and SPD, among other things.
P.S. Guard-rail repairs will close the right NB lane at Monday’s crash scene for a while tonight, starting around 7:30 pm, per WSDOT.
(TOPLINE: As of 8:29, six hours after the truck full of frozen crab went sideways, the Viaduct is fully open again)
A crash is blocking the right lane on the NB SR 99 Viaduct after S Royal Brougham Way. Expect delays. pic.twitter.com/kyB1qrVrKe
— seattledot (@seattledot) April 4, 2016
2:54 PM: That crash has just led to a followup alert that the NB Alaskan Way Viaduct is “subject to closure,” so don’t head that way for a while. Metro is routing 120, 125, and the C Line off NB 99 for now, too.
3 PM UPDATE: Here’s the view from the other side, thanks to a reader who texted us (we’re at 206-293-6302, 24/7):
And another view, texted from a back-seat passenger of someone who was on the Viaduct:
Again, while the photos show left-lane traffic getting by, SDOT has warned that both lanes are “subject to closure,” so an alternate route remains your best bet. Here’s the “live” view:
3:24 PM UPDATE: Tow trucks have arrived.
3:45 PM UPDATE: The southbound lanes also are being closed, says SPD, while they work to right the truck.
4:11 PM UPDATE: Southbound 99 has JUST reopened. Check the “live” view above for an update on northbound – the truck’s been pulled upright, for starters.
4:35 PM: Thanks to the reader who sent this video showing items falling from the truck to the surface below The Viaduct:
SDOT’s latest tweet, meantime: “We’re currently off-loading the truck and will then tow it. Once the structure is deemed safe lanes will reopen.” P.S. Regional media reports the boxes falling off the truck are filled with frozen crab.
4:47 PM: And WSDOT has just tweeted that the truck is being towed. It’s been about two hours since the wreck. (added) You can’t see it in the current “live” view above but other views show MANY boxes left behind, so northbound is going to be out of commission a while longer.
4:59 PM: Thanks to the reader who texted a view showing exactly what we just mentioned:
5:30 PM: This update from SPD Blotter says it’s been determined the Viaduct does *not* have any structural damage as a result of this, and so it’ll be able to reopen once all the debris are cleared. SPD also verifies that the cargo was frozen crab. (Another side note – it’s been a little more than a year since the infamous fish-truck crash; that too happened around 2:30 pm, but it was on SB 99, not NB.)
6 PM: Northbound 99 is still closed at the crash scene. We’ll continue updating until it reopens.
6:37 PM: One lane of NB 99 has just reopened. The right lane will remain closed TFN because of guardrail damage, says WSDOT.
6:47 PM: Metro says Rapid Ride C and Routes 120 and 125 are back on their regular routes using the Viaduct.
8:29 PM: Six hours after the crash, SDOT just announced that NB 99 is fully open again.
8:45 PM: … with this postscript:
UPDATE: We'll briefly close the NB Viaduct again to get the semi & trailer off. Should happen in the next 30 minutes.
— seattledot (@seattledot) April 5, 2016
Nine days after the last Highway 99 tunnel-machine update, WSDOT just published another one – but it still doesn’t answer the big question of when the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close so the machine can tunnel beneath it. The update goes into great detail about how crews are working in “hyperbaric” conditions, and includes this :34 video:
WSDOT has said it hopes to provide two weeks advance notice of the two-weeks-or-so closure, so at this point it would seem unlikely to start before mid-April. The state is continuing to add info to its special closure-info website at 99closure.org.
Today’s update also included a note that results of the March Viaduct inspection are available:
Survey crews measured approximately 5/16 of an inch of settlement near Seneca Street and between 1/8 and 1/4 inch of settlement at the Columbia Street on-ramp. Crews also observed upward movement of up to 1 inch at some locations at the south end of the structure. This upward movement is uniform in nature. No new cracking or structural damage was found.
That’s the entirety of the update published here.
(WSDOT photo from last week – workers walking toward the tunneling machine’s back end)
Another update this afternoon on the Highway 99 tunnel project, currently in a “maintenance stop” getting ready to tunnel beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which WSDOT plans to close for about two weeks when that happens.
No date yet but WSDOT’s update says they’re getting closer:
Inspections and routine maintenance of the SR 99 tunneling machine are ongoing as Seattle Tunnel Partners continues preparing the machine for its drive beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Crews have been performing planned maintenance since the machine reached a maintenance stop earlier this month. They’ve also been preparing for a series of inspections that must occur in hyperbaric conditions. Hyperbaric conditions are those in which the air pressure is greater than the atmosphere we live and breathe in every day – similar to what scuba divers experience during the course of an underwater dive. This post explains the process for completing hyperbaric work.
So far this week, STP crews have completed a total of 10 hyperbaric shifts in the chamber behind the tunneling machine’s cutterhead. Most of that time has been devoted to cleaning muck from the cutterhead openings and building the platforms crews will stand on as they perform the inspections.
The inspections are expected to take several more days. STP will determine the expected duration of the remaining maintenance based on the results of the inspections.
The end of the maintenance period will usher in the next step in Bertha’s journey: a trip beneath the viaduct. WSDOT plans to close the viaduct for approximately two weeks to allow the machine to pass beneath the structure.
We will provide the public with advance notice of the closure, but the start date isn’t yet known. It will depend on the amount of work that must be completed while the machine is in the maintenance stop. Check 99closure.org for additional details as the closure approaches.
Local transportation and transit agencies have not yet formally announced their plans for what’ll change to help mobility during the Viaduct closure, but some tentative plans were previewed at last month’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting – here’s our coverage.
No start date yet – but that two-weeks-or-so Alaskan Way Viaduct closure is in view, now that the Highway 99 tunneling machine has reached its “maintenance stop” just before going beneath the structure. The machine could stay stopped there for up to a month, says WSDOT in its announcement:
On Saturday, Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, reached a planned maintenance stop near Yesler Way, after successfully mining almost 300 feet during the past three weeks. According to STP, the TBM functioned within required operating parameters. The machine has now mined a total of 1,560 feet.
Seattle Tunnel Partners will spend up to one month inspecting the machine and performing planned maintenance. Scheduled work includes:
· Performing hyperbaric interventions
· Inspecting the cutterhead, main drive unit and screw conveyor
· Replacing cutting tools
· Extending the conveyor belt and the high voltage cable.
When STP has completed its maintenance work, crews will tunnel out of the maintenance stop and beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct. WSDOT plans to close the viaduct for approximately two weeks to allow the machine to pass beneath the structure.
We will provide the public with advance notice of the closure, but the start date isn’t yet known. It will depend on the amount of work that must be completed while the machine is in the maintenance stop. STP won’t know the extent of the needed maintenance until inspections are complete, a process that could take approximately two weeks of the one-month maintenance period. Check www.99closure.org for additional details as the closure approaches.
More backstory here. Wondering how the closure will be handled? See our report (including video) on the briefing the West Seattle Transportation Coalition got last month from state and county reps; the WSTC was told WSDOT will do its best to give at least two weeks’ warning of the closure’s start.
Another Highway 99 tunnel update from WSDOT this afternoon. This time, the state has told its contractor, according to the update, “that they could continue mining to a planned maintenance stop near Yesler Way. The notification came as STP completed the 25-ring demonstration period that was put in place when mining resumed on Feb. 23. The underground maintenance stop is approximately 120 feet north of the tunneling machine’s current location near South Washington Street. The machine has traveled a total of 1,437 feet and the bored section of the SR 99 tunnel is now 15 percent complete.” That maintenance stop is where, WSDOT says, the machine could undergo “several weeks” of work before it gets ready to tunnel beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which will be closed for about two weeks as a precaution while the machine is beneath it.
In case you missed our coverage, WSDOT reps briefed the West Seattle Transportation Coalition on the closure plan last month; they expect to set a closure date with about two weeks’ warning.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct is open again and will be open for the rest of the weekend, WSDOT just announced – the twice-yearly inspection ended early. (But remember that tomorrow morning, it’ll be closed 6 am-noon for a stretch north of the Battery Street Tunnel because of the Hot Chocolate Run.)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Now that the Highway 99 tunneling machine is back at work, planning is back in high gear for closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct for about two weeks while the digging happens beneath it.
The West Seattle Transportation Coalition got a preview of the plan – including Metro bus reroutes – last night.
The preview included details such as how close the tunneling machine will be to the underside of The Viaduct’s columns (within 14 feet at one point). If it continues operating as planned from hereon out, the closure is likely to start sometime in March, and WSDOT hopes to set a date with about two weeks notice.
“We do understand it’s going to have regional impacts and businesses and travelers are going to need notice,” said Chris Brown of WSDOT, one of the two main briefers along with, providing Metro details, Chris Arkills, the West Seattleite who is County Executive Dow Constantine‘s transportation adviser.
Everything they said – and everything WSTC members/attendees asked – is all in our video atop this story, one hour and 15 minutes worth. You can listen instead of watching, as there are no visuals – no projector. Brown began with some backstory on the project – we’ve reported on that so often, we’re not recapping it here, but he explored a few points that we do mention after the closure-related info – keep reading!
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:34 PM: One quick topline from tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting: One of the WSDOT reps there to brief the WSTC on plans for the two-weeks-or-so tunneling-related Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown had word of a shorter closure that’ll happen sooner. Chris Brown said the Viaduct will close on March 5th – one week from Saturday – for its next semi-annual structural inspection. As you’ll see on the Construction Lookahead, it’s listed as both days that weekend, but as Brown said, they usually hold the second day in reserve but generally don’t need it unless “there’s an issue.” But you can plan on no Viaduct 6 am-6 pm March 5th. As for the “big” closure – no date set yet but Brown said it won’t be a last-minute decision. Our full report will have details of the detour and bus-reroute plans, as well as video of tonight’s meeting.
P.S. As noted in comments, even if the inspection closure doesn’t go into Sunday, the Hot Chocolate run will close 99 north of the Battery Street Tunnel that morning.
ADDED FEBRUARY 29th: The official advisory from WSDOT:
Both directions of the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close between South Spokane Street and the north end of the Battery Street Tunnel. Drivers should plan ahead and be prepared for additional congestion as a result of this closure.
In addition to the inspection closure, the annual Hot Chocolate 15k/5k Run will require a closure of SR 99/Aurora Avenue North on Sunday morning.
6 a.m. to 6 p.m. both Saturday, March 5, and Sunday, March 6
Alaskan Way Viaduct closed between South Spokane Street and the Battery Street Tunnel
6 a.m. to noon, Sunday, March 6
SR 99/Aurora Avenue North will close in both directions.
Northbound lanes will be closed between the Battery Street Tunnel and N. 47th Street.
Southbound lanes will be closed between the Battery Street Tunnel and N. 38th Street.