(WSB photo, taken – from the passenger seat – midday Friday)
One year after the city officially marked the end of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, a speed-limit change has just been announced by SDOT:
This weekend the speed limit on the Spokane Street Viaduct is increasing to 40 miles per hour (mph) between I-5 and First Avenue South. While the speed limit was 35 mph based on the structure’s original design, the Spokane Street Viaduct Project widened the roadway, which allows for a 40 mph speed. The project officially concluded last December, but the lower speed limit remained in place while the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) monitored operations. SDOT has concluded the Spokane Street Viaduct is functioning well and that the speed limit can be safely increased.
Last weekend SDOT replaced aging and worn overhead signs on the structure. The new signs are made of a reflective material that works so well the electric lighting associated with overhead signs is not needed. The Washington State Department of Transportation currently uses this material and we are taking this opportunity to review its use in Seattle.
The Spokane Street Viaduct Project doubled the viaduct’s width, and refurbished and seismically reinforced the older portion. The additional width allowed for wider travel lanes, shoulders and deceleration and merge lanes to be installed. The project also added a new eastbound off-ramp at Fourth Avenue S and fully reconstructed the lower S Spokane Street in concrete, including a sidewalk on the south side and multi-use trail on the north side. Finally, artwork was added to enliven the area below the viaduct with color and images that recollect the natural and cultural history of the location.
(Photos by Nick Adams for WSB)
After four years of construction, finally a celebration for the completion of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project. It was May 2008 when word came that the project would proceed, and we took a closeup look at “how it’ll change your life.” It’s added a 4th Avenue offramp on the eastbound side, consolidated on/offramps on the westbound side, and more travel lanes, among other things, all commemorated with this morning’s gathering beneath the SSV (known not that long ago as The West Seattle Freeway). There were of course speeches, including one from West Seattle restaurateur and Chamber of Commerce board chair Dave Montoure:
During the final phase of the project, he was part of an informal task force set up to avoid community-communication snafus like one that left many surprised by a weekend closure. But that’s all in the past – this morning was a time to celebrate, maybe even sigh in relief. Or at least, take pictures, as Mayor Mike McGinn was seen doing:
A closer look at that cake and the ribboncutting – plus what’s next, ahead:
If you have driven the newly reopened lower Spokane Street, westbound under the newly widened Spokane Street Viaduct, you have seen the designs painted on the columns – city-commissioned art that’s part of the project. The city has just announced plans for a formal dedication:
After three years of construction, the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project is nearly complete. At a public dedication scheduled for 9 a.m, Friday, Nov. 16, a unique set of artworks will be unveiled, along with new sidewalks and landscaping in the lower roadway reconstruction. Santa Monica, Calif. artist team merge conceptual design’s (Claudia Reisenberger and Franka Diehnelt) artwork, SODO, is a vast visual narrative that catalogues more than 200 years of SoDo’s history. Created in partnership with the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), the artwork consists of stenciled and barcode designs painted on the concrete columns that hold up the existing and new portions of the Spokane Street Viaduct between Sixth Avenue South and East Marginal Way South. Nine different color and image schemes create separate zones that recollect the natural and cultural history of the area, the industries that flourished there, and wildlife that inhabited the site. In total, more than 500 column faces were painted.
5:46 PM: According to the Construction Look Ahead that SDOT updates every Thursday – see it here – westbound lower Spokane Street will be open all the way from 6th Avenue S. to East Marginal Way by 6 am tomorrow. That’s the last major piece of the four-year project to widen the elevated roadway, add an eastbound offramp at 4th Avenue South, and consolidated westbound on/offramps at 1st Avenue, among other components.
9:50 PM UPDATE: Just checked while coming home from an errand downtown – and the entirety of lower westbound Spokane Street is now OPEN. Photo to come. (For a trip down Memory Lane, here’s our first in-depth story before the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project started construction 4+ years ago. There’s also a project timeline at the bottom of the SSVWP city home page.)
10:50 PM NOTE: If you’re wondering about the designs on the columns – it’s art commissioned for the project.
Two updates this afternoon related to the city’s almost-complete Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project:
WESTBOUND SURFACE SPOKANE STREET PARTLY OPEN: SDOT says that for the first time in three years, westbound S. Spokane St., under the widened SSV, is now open between 4th and 6th Avenues. Project spokesperson Paul Elliott says in an update e-mail, “It is hoped that the remainder of westbound surface S Spokane, the segment from 4th Avenue S to East Marginal Way S, will be reopened to motorists before the end of October.”
SPEED-LIMIT UPDATE: We also have an update from Elliott about the city’s timetable for revisiting the speed limit on the SSV itself, now that work on the bridge deck is done. It came up in the WSB Forums this week; we had checked with SDOT a month ago, at which time Elliott told us the city Traffic Engineer would be taking a look “after giving motorists some time to adjust to the new configuration.” Checking back this week to find out about that timetable, we got this reply:
As to … when the City Traffic Engineer will be evaluating the speed limit on the structure, he expects this to happen in the spring. We need normalized operating speeds along with some collision data (of which we currently have little). The spring timeframe will give us about six months of baseline collision data, with which to better assess the safety impacts of any change in the speed limit.
The project itself has now been under way for about four years (here’s one of our earliest stories, from spring 2008).
Neither the Spokane Street Viaduct nor Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct is scheduled for any sort of closure in the next week. (We’ll be checking with WSDOT to see if this means they’re done with the work that had been causing the frequent overnight southbound 99 closures, or if this is just a break.) No date yet for the reopening of westbound surface Spokane St. under the SSV, but it’s expected to be soon. And here’s one other surface-street closure, in the Pioneer Square/stadium zone, you might want to know about:
Monday, Oct. 15 – the morning of Friday, Oct. 19 – First Avenue South will be closed between South King Street and Railroad Way South [map] from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly. Note: on Wednesday, Oct. 17 the closure start time will be delayed until two hours after the Sounders game at CenturyLink Field.
Yet another reminder if you see this before Monday night – ALL transportation/traffic/transit topics are on the table for the Sustainable West Seattle Community Forum that night (October 15th), 7 pm, Senior Center of West Seattle (California/Oregon; WSB sponsor).
Very short list for this week’s traffic alerts. We’ll group them by projects, instead of days:
SPOKANE STREET VIADUCT: Nothing in the coming week, says SDOT.
ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT/99: Tonight through Thursday night, it’s closed southbound, 9 pm-5 am, between the Battery Street Tunnel and West Seattle Bridge, says WSDOT.
P.S. If you drive through SODO, remember that there’s a Seahawks game Monday night and a Huskies game Thursday night, both likely to affect traffic. As noted here on Friday, the West Seattle Water Taxi has late-night runs for both games.
Two Spokane Street Viaduct updates this morning. First, as commenter/honorary road correspondent Robert2715 points out, the 1st Avenue South offramp from the eastbound SSV only reopened one lane this morning – but SDOT spokesperson Paul Elliott confirms the other lane is indeed expected to reopen tomorrow.
Second, SDOT answers a question we received via e-mail from Stacy, who wondered, “Do you know if there are plans to raise the speed limit on the Spokane Street Viaduct (i.e., back to 45 mph) now that the construction is complete with the new permanent barrier between eastbound and westbound traffic? That is the speed on the bridge, and it would be great if it were consistent all the way to I-5, too.” SDOT’s Elliott replies:
Now that the work on the bridge deck on the viaduct is largely complete, we are returning to the preconstruction 35 MPH. After giving motorists some time to adjust to the new configuration, the City’s Traffic Engineer will examine the conditions and then determine whether or not this is the proper speed limit.
The SSV Widening Project is still not completely done – the westbound surface S. Spokane Street is one of the last pieces of the puzzle – but is scheduled to wrap up next month.
Just back from SODO, where we verified that the new ramp to/from the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct is indeed open. For the first time in more than two years, you can get onto the westbound West Seattle Bridge without taking I-5 or Highway 99. The dash-cam view right at 6 am:
The old westbound onramp at 1st/Spokane closed in May 2010 and was demolished shortly thereafter as part of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project; the old westbound onramp at 4th/Spokane was closed in 1993, but not torn down till this project (we photographed the then-15-year-old sign for our first in-depth look at the then-upcoming SSVWP in May 2008).
Note that this opening does NOT mark the end of the project – westbound surface Spokane Street won’t open for another month or so, SDOT says, and that’s also when they expect to reopen the eastbound 1st Avenue S. offramp, which is being repaired/resurfaced.
The image looks toward the northeast – that’s the offramp on top, the onramp “below” it.
By this time Friday morning, as SDOT announced last week, the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct‘s new 1st Avenue South on-/offramp will be open. Since it is a two-way ramp, you’ll drive southbound to get onto it, rather than westbound. And that led commenter “TK” to ask:
What is the recommended route for westbound traffic coming from the Georgetown/4th Ave S (Costco)/Spokane St. area going back to West Seattle via the 1st Ave onramp?
Once Spokane St is reopened, how do we access the onramp? Turn north on 1st Ave & pull a U-turn? (will SDOT put up signs allowing this like some places in Bellevue?) Or continue on 4th north to the old potholed non-arterial Holgate just to get south again?
There doesn’t seem to be any reasonable solution that comes to mind, and there is a lot of traffic which will have to deal with this daily.
As promised in the comment exchange, we took the question to SDOT. Ahead, the answer from project spokesperson Paul Elliott: Click to read the rest of Countdown to new Spokane St. Viaduct ramp: How to get onto it…
When SDOT announced late Thursday that the long-awaited new 1st Avenue South onramp/offramp from the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct would open next Friday (WSB coverage here), they hadn’t set a time yet – but now they have. Just heard from project spokesperson Paul Elliott that the ramp will be open by 6 am Friday (August 31st).
(SDOT photo of the nearly complete offramp side of the new ramp, taken earlier this month)
Just announced by SDOT:
With the project approximately 95 percent finished, major elements of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project are nearing completion. The combination westbound on/off ramp at First Avenue S and S Spokane Street will open to motorists next Friday morning, August 31. The on-ramp provides the only westbound access to the viaduct and the West Seattle Bridge from SODO, and its opening will eliminate the need for SODO motorists to take the detour across the low level swing bridge.
The old westbound off-ramp at Fourth Avenue S and on-ramp at First Avenue S had to be closed and demolished to make room for the widened viaduct structure.
Construction activity on the upper viaduct deck is also nearing completion, with the permanent barrier between east and westbound traffic installed. Westbound motorists are now traveling in the final lane configurations, and the eastbound on-ramp from Harbor Island has reopened.
The most significant and visible work yet to be completed is the repaving of the eastbound off-ramp at First Avenue and the intersection with S Spokane Street at the bottom of that ramp. As such, the off-ramp remains closed until late September. North/south traffic on First Avenue in the construction area has been reduced to one lane in each direction, while the northbound lanes will be fully closed for three nights during the last week of August.
The old 1st Avenue South onramp closed for demolition in May 2010. Unlike that ramp, you won’t take 1st all the way to Spokane to get onto the bridge; the entrance to the new ramp is actually on 1st, more than a block north of Spokane.
ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: For those who asked about buses – yes, they will use this ramp too. The reply from Jeff Switzer at King County DOT:
This construction milestone will be good news for bus riders going to West Seattle. Starting Aug. 31, bus riders will have a faster and more reliable trip using the new First Avenue South ramp to the West Seattle Bridge, and buses will be less likely to face delays due to trains or when the lower Spokane Street bridge needs to open for marine traffic.
Metro buses have traveled a revised route since May 17, 2010, including Routes 21, 22, 35, 56, 57, 85, 116, 118 & 119 traveling East Marginal way to the lower level Spokane Street bridge to get to West Seattle. Opening the new First Avenue South/South Spokane Street on ramp will decrease travel times on these routes. We’re coordinating with the city so that we can revise our bus routes accordingly as soon as the ramp is officially open.
Just in from SDOT:
The previously scheduled closure for tonight of the eastbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct has been canceled; however, the same eastbound lanes from SR 99 to I-5 will be closed tomorrow night, Thursday, August 16, as scheduled.
The Thursday night closure will begin at 10 p.m. and finish at 5 a.m. on Friday morning. During the closure, all eastbound traffic on the West Seattle Bridge will be detoured to northbound SR99. At the end of this closure on Friday morning, the eastbound Harbor Island on-ramp to the Spokane Street Viaduct will be reopened to traffic.
We are updating today’s preview and our ongoing day-by-day closure list to reflect tonight’s cancellation.
(SDOT photos, courtesy Darin Stephens)
Some driving the Spokane Street Viaduct in recent days have asked why squares are being cut from some of its newly paved surface. The questions started in the comment section following our Friday update on the close-to-completion project.
As promised, we followed up with SDOT. Project spokesperson Paul Elliott talked with project manager Stuart Goldsmith and replies that the problem is delamination – some of the new concrete didn’t bond with the old concrete: “Repairing and resurfacing the old bridge deck required a hydro-demolition process to clean and roughen the old deck to ensure a good bond when the new thin lift micro silica overlay was then applied. If there is any oil or other dirt remaining, we can end up with delamination/an inadequate bonding.” (The hydro-demolition process was discussed in our story about a work-zone tour two months ago.)
The delaminated spots were discovered with a low-tech type of testing, which you can see in WSB coverage of the Fauntleroy Expressway seismic-retrofit work back in January – “the best way to determine whether or not the bond is solid is to drag metal chains across the top and listen for problem areas,” as Elliott explains it. The problem spots (we’re checking back to ask how many) were cut out for repairs:
He says the work will not set the schedule back further. Meantime, other work that’s going on includes pouring of the permanent concrete barrier between westbound and eastbound – the green material is the rebar:
And here’s a section after the pour:
Milestones ahead for the project: Friday morning, as noted in our day-by-day closure list, the Harbor Island onramp to the eastbound SSV reopens after its long closure; starting next Monday (August 20th) the 1st Avenue South offramp from the eastbound SSV closes for about 5 weeks, during which time it’ll be repaved.
ADDED 6:18 PM: SDOT’s reply to our followup questions, which included: How much of the resurfaced bridge deck has the delamination problem? Why did it happen? What about concerns of an uneven surface post-repairs?
The percentage of the new roadway requiring repair due to delamination was less than 5% of the total resurfaced area and was well within expectations given the condition and age of the old deck. Delamination repair was anticipated as part of the deck refurbishing process, which is why we test it, and does not delay the project.
Drivers on the roadway, to include motorcycle riders, should not be able to detect the cuts once they are filled with concrete. We will continue to review the contractor’s work to ensure the roadway meets the required specifications prior to the city accepting the work as complete.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project is unmistakably into its end stage – and “it may look done to the public” – but it’s not done, and there’s still a lot going on, according to the project team.
We heard from them at noontime today during the final meeting of a community task force set up to address communications challenges after the February closure that caught many by surprise.
So there’s still no date for the opening of the new 1st Avenue South on-/offramp, but project manager Stuart Goldsmith told the task force he expects they’ll be able to establish one “in 10 days or so.” Once they know the date the ramp will be ready, they’ll plan a ribboncutting for that date and get it open to the public ASAP, promises SDOT.
So why is this opening so much later than originally estimated? We asked that question, and Goldsmith gave a detailed reply. Believe it or not, the project is under budget and the contractor is still within the amount of “working days” in the contract – the explanation, ahead:
Thursday is when SDOT and WSDOT are usually out with construction-related traffic alerts for the next week – and for starters, we just got the plan for the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, in its final weeks. Some overnight, one-direction closures are coming up – read on for the full list: Click to read the rest of West Seattle traffic alerts: Spokane Street Viaduct’s next round…
After last weekend’s westbound closure of the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct, we’ve been asked “how many more?” so we sent the question to SDOT. That closure should be the LAST daytime closure for the SSV Widening Project, says SDOT spokesperson Paul Elliott, when we asked today how many more such closures are ahead in the project’s final weeks: “As to major closures, we have none planned. We will do everything we can to avoid any further daytime closures.” He also says they’re still on track to have the entire project done by summer’s end – early September – “barring unforeseen challenges.” (In case you missed it, we toured the project zone recently for a closer look at what the last phase of work involves – see that story here.)
Just in from SDOT – what you can expect for the next week-plus in terms of Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project closures. Right now, no bridge closures after tonight, but there are several surface closures of note, including a three-day shutdown of two blocks of eastbound surface Spokane Street. Details ahead: Click to read the rest of West Seattle traffic alerts: Next week’s Spokane St. Viaduct plan…
Along with tonight’s overnight WESTBOUND closure of the Spokane Street Viaduct – which means you can’t get to the bridge from I-5 or Beacon Hill – another one’s just been added for tomorrow night (late Thursday night to early Friday). Details ahead in an SDOT advisory: Click to read the rest of West Seattle traffic alert: Extra bridge closure added, Thursday night…
If you have already been on the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct this morning, you know this already, but SDOT has now confirmed it – the 1st Avenue South offramp reopened this morning, a day earlier than anticipated, because the contractor finished the work that had required one offramp to be closed continuously for the past several weeks. This also means an end to bus rerouting, too, as Metro has just confirmed in an advisory. We just updated our list of scheduled closures for the rest of the week, which include Saturday’s 5 am-3:30 pm closure of the northbound Alaskan Way Viaduct for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.
SDOT has just sent word that the Spokane Street Viaduct overnight closures scheduled for later this week have been rescheduled – and that means the reopening of the 1st Avenue South ramp from the eastbound side has been pushed back a few days:
The overnight closure of the eastbound traffic lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct, along with the left westbound lane, previously scheduled for the nights of Wednesday, June 13, and Thursday, June 14, has been canceled. The closure has tentatively been rescheduled for Monday, June 18, and Tuesday, June 19. The closure will begin at 10 p.m. both nights and continue until 5 a.m. the following morning. (Westbound traffic will be maintained during this period in the remaining westbound lane.)
The previously announced Monday, June 18, overnight closure of the westbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct between I-5 and SR 99 has tentatively been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 20, from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. on Thursday, June 21.
On the morning of Thursday, June 21, the eastbound off-ramp at First Avenue S will be reopened.
This changes the timetable on the master list of SSV *and* Highway 99 closures that we had published for this week – so we’ll update those and link the revised list here when we’re done.
P.S. If you missed our report from the work zone, published last weekend, check it out here.
Thanks to the tipster who texted us (206-293-6302 any time!) to say it appeared the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct had reopened early. Just drove the bridge to verify it, since SDOT hasn’t sent an announcement, and yes, it has reopened. More closures ahead this week – including some on Highway 99 – and we’re putting together a comprehensive list to publish here later.
ADDED 2:16 PM: SDOT’s Marybeth Turner confirms via e-mail that crews are totally done with the work for which this weekend closure was planned, so that’s the last closure until a partial eastbound closure this Wednesday night (explained here).
Photos and story by Patrick Sand and Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Curving over 1st Avenue South, that’s the ramp West Seattleites have been waiting for since SDOT closed and demolished its predecessor two years ago, as part of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project. The new combination on-and-off-ramp for the westbound SSV isn’t expected to be ready for you to use until summer’s end – one year longer than estimated back in 2010 – but it’s getting closer:
That’s the view we had from halfway up the ramp during a tour with the project team on Friday afternoon. We saw what’s happening now and talked about what’s happening next – including the reason why the westbound SSV is now (as of 6 pm Saturday 6/9) CLOSED for the remainder of the weekend. Read on for details, including 18 more photos from our tour:
That photo is from a tour of the Spokane Street Viaduct construction zone this afternoon, just as the city gets ready for another major closure. While our full tour report will have to wait till this evening, we wanted to issue a closure reminder before everyone heads out for the weekend: The closure is WESTBOUND ONLY, on the bridge between I-5 and Highway 99, and the time is unusual: 6 pm Saturday till 5 am Monday. (Remember, as noted here yesterday, there’s a lot going on Saturday afternoon in SODO, so the city didn’t want to start the shutdown till all that lightened up.) You will NOT be able to get onto the bridge from I-5 during the closure, but you WILL be able to get to it from Highway 99. Meantime, more later on what we saw, and learned about the project, during our tour.
(Friday photo of the Spokane Street Viaduct – top of the photo is the east end – by Long Bach Nguyen)
We just confirmed with SDOT‘s Paul Elliott, spokesperson for the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, that the plan to switch open offramps on the eastbound side is a “go” for tonight.
This means that starting tomorrow morning, if you use the eastbound SSV (the West Seattle Bridge between 99 and I-5), the 4th Avenue South offramp will be OPEN, while the 1st Avenue South offramp will be CLOSED, a reverse of what it’s been for the last few weeks. This is required as they continue to repair and resurface the old – south – side of the elevated structure (we explained the work in this April report). Elliott says they’re still projecting the 1st Avenue ramp will be closed about two and a half weeks, but “it could slip.” The westbound SSV, he reminds us, will be closed most of the weekend June 9th-10th (6 pm Saturday 6/9 through 5 am Monday 6/11).
The entire SSV project is currently expected to be complete by early September; while the new 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the west side will be usable by emergency vehicles soon, it will not be open to general traffic until the project is complete, because of the need for transition space for regular traffic to get on and off, which won’t be available till the full width of the newly widened bridge is in use.
ADDED 2:17 PM: A commenter wondered about Metro reroutes – yes, there are some, and here’s the full list.
The good news is, the city expects to reopen the 4th Avenue S. offramp from the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct next Wednesday, May 30th. The not-so-good news is, as previously warned, that means the 1st Avenue S. ramp will close temporarily, as rehab work continues on the old deck of the widened SSV. Here’s the latest about that and other project-related changes/closures for next week (plus another warning about the June 9-11 westbound closure) from project spokesperson Paul Elliott: Click to read the rest of Spokane St. Viaduct update: 4th Ave. ramp to reopen May 30th…
Today was meeting day for the informal West Seattle community task force that SDOT convenes monthly to discuss the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project. One big message from the project team: The workers on the bridge are very close to the traffic lanes now (we took the photo above from the 1st Avenue South exit while headed downtown Thursday morning), so please, please heed the speed limit. There are some other long-range project updates we’ll share in a separate report later, but right now, the official list of upcoming closures discussed at the meeting has just arrived in news-release format. (Side note: Regarding the traffic backups and signage problems last Tuesday night, SDOT saw and heard the comments, and is working on better signage for upcoming closures.) Note that this list of dates also includes the scheduled reopening of the 4th Avenue S. offramp from the eastbound bridge, likely May 22nd, at which time the 1st Avenue S. ramp will close for about a month, as bridge deck work shifts westward. Here’s this afternoon’s announcement: Click to read the rest of Next round of closures, changes for Spokane Street Viaduct…
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