Freeway Fright ’07: Wednesday morning commute updates

First, those 6 live cameras (refresh this page any time for the latest images and info); scroll down to see frequent commute updates below them:

(l to r below: latest from cams over WS Bridge midspan looking east, WS Br. I-5 ramps, I-5 @ Spokane Street in whichever direction WSDOT chooses to point it)

(l to r below: latest from cams looking east @ Low Bridge approach, Alaskan Way @ Washington, 99 @ 1st Avenue S bridge)

6:15 AM: Here we go, one more time. Our WSDOT pal Erin is doing a live radio interview and saying more cars are out there … and also says the project could switch over by tomorrow morning to three lanes closed. She says commuter complacency could be a “recipe for disaster.”

6:19 AM: The WSDOT update just posted here says, “It’s taking drivers approximately seven minutes to get from Albro to Holgate. This is twice the time it usually takes, and a direct result of the increased volumes this morning.” Could this morning finally bring the feared Commutastrophe?

6:25 AM: Bridge cams show a little bit of thickening. Bridge ramp to I-5 looks OK, though. Browsing our bookmarks, we arrive at a historic WS photo; imagine commuting in one of these.

6:35 AM: Not too bad past the construction zone. TV traffic report echoes what WSDOT’s Erin said earlier – might as well start worrying about tomorrow and the potential additional lane closure already.

6:40 AM: Times I-5 blog hasn’t updated since 3:46 pm yesterday, at which time they mentioned the Water Taxi “mobile farebox” Dow C’s people told us all about on Monday, as well as interesting bus numbers. As for today’s traffic — TV says The Viaduct looks great, even as I-5 continues to bog down (10 mph past construction zone).

6:47 AM: Those radio people are getting complacent too. They just spent three minutes interviewing somebody from this “geek dating” website. Although as geeks, we might be interested if we weren’t happily coupled. On the traffic front, sounds like 405 is again the place to avoid. On our bridge, the viaduct exit looks a little busy, but not horrifically backed up yet.

6:51 AM: Southbound I-5 could be a problem – stalled car reported at Spokane Street.

6:57 AM: Latest travel-time report, “an extra five or six minutes to get through the construction zone.” WS Bridge continues looking good. Crystal-clear sky again today, don’t forget the shades, whichever commute method you’re using.

7:01 AM: A traffic reporter used a scary phrase … “pretty darn slow.” WS Bridge drivers appear to be behaving, however.

7:10 AM: WSDOT says 1.5-mile backup on NB I-5 through construction zone, to Albro. If you’re joining the freeway from the WS Bridge, things still aren’t too bad … the left lane is even open just past the Viaduct exit.

7:14 AM: 99 heading northbound past the South Park exit looks pretty jammed. 99 at Michigan too.

7:20 AM: TV traffic reporter says 99 is still moving better than I-5, where the “construction zone” backup is now described as about 11 mins. On camera patrol, 1st/Marginal looks busy, not bad coming over the S. Park bridge.

7:28 AM: I-5 construction zone now declared “stop and go.” WS spots continue looking light – check out Fauntleroy/Alaska, often clog city by now, not today.

7:33 AM: Bridge offramp to The Viaduct now in its customary backup. WSDOT people back on the radio warning again about tomorrow — yet another lane may be closed at 5 — weather is supposed to be worse too — if you tried evasive action this past Monday, tomorrow’s the day to try it again.

7:40 AM: Cringe, the I-5 construction zone does look choked. Bridge exit to Viaduct does too.

7:46 AM: The Bridge is starting to look a little ugly heading toward I-5 as well as toward 99.

7:52 AM: As a distraction from commute angst, here’s the best clip ever from the old local comedy show “Almost Live” — the “Ballard Driving Academy.” Had to find it after the Big Blog started a thread about “Almost Live,” which is what taught us about neighborhood quirks (some of which don’t even apply any more) when we moved here in the early ’90s.

7:56 AM: Here’s a wide-open road … Alaskan Way. You could take the low bridge as an alternative; its approach looks good.

8:01 AM: WSDOT has switched the Holgate (construction zone) cam to look head-on at approaching drivers. A little closer and you could probably see faces. Scowling, most likely. Good news for West Seattle — our bridge looks better.

8:08 AM: Radio traffic report says there’s a stalled vehicle in the construction zone on NB 5. Meantime, we’re sending the WSB road crew to see how the Water Taxi looks for the morning’s last run.

8:13 AM: Bridge, nice. I-5, improving. Have we bottomed out for the day? Is going to work early (and ostensibly going home early … to enjoy the summer evening) the antidote to Commutastrophe?

8:17 AM: Our original radio choice is now wasting time on another non-traffic topic so we are switching. The other alternative reports that First and Fourth are a little slower than usual but nothing horrific. Cam at 3rd/Lander a little busy, however.

8:25 AM: Bridge ramp to I-5, no problem. WSDOT says that stall in the construction zone has been “cleared.” (Sounds ominous. Dematerialization beam, perhaps.) Road crew says the Water Taxi dock looks “deserted,” with one run left to go for the morning. Photo shortly.

8:30 AM: Both bridge views admirably clear. I-5 doing OK south of the city; here’s the view from Albro.

8:36 AM: Our new radio choice says it’s staying in touch with a cabbie. No specifics on his commute except that he is following alternative routes and avoiding backups. Bridge watch: Thumbs-up. I-5 ramp watch: Same.

8:49 AM: Last check. The Bridge is slightly busier (people going in late?). Commutastrophe averted for another day. But beware that additional lane closure tomorrow. Before we go, here’s the WSB road crew photo from Seacrest, where a flock of Water Taxi shuttles was sighted (though few passengers in view):


17 Replies to "Freeway Fright '07: Wednesday morning commute updates"

  • Tish August 15, 2007 (6:41 am)

    “Commutastrophe” — too funny!

  • huindekmi August 15, 2007 (6:54 am)

    Another day, another wee hours of the morning commute. Volumes are definitely increasing through the construction zone – more cars and moving slower each day. And its getting more difficult to merge onto the northbound lanes. Even at 5:30AM, people are getting aggressive and trying to block others from merging in, as if being one car length further ahead will get them to their destination faster.
    Once you get past the construction zone, it’s smooth sailing.

  • Admiral Resident August 15, 2007 (8:19 am)

    There really must be more important (interesting) things to write about.

  • GenHillOne August 15, 2007 (8:47 am)

    Um, maybe after these first few days, but I do find these updates very helpful – thanks WSB!

  • WSB August 15, 2007 (8:59 am)

    We know some people may not be affected or just don’t care, but somebody out there does … our already higher-than-ever site “traffic” has been up 25% the past two days. Tomorrow, though, we will likely drop off the moment-by-moment patrol unless a true problem erupts. We are thinking about doing a personal alternative commute experiment ourselves.

  • David August 15, 2007 (9:13 am)

    One thing this is telling me…is that the folks who say the only solution to all thing commuting is to build more roads are wrong. We already admit we have bad/heavy traffic downtown. Here we remove 2-3 lanes off a 5 lane freeway, and guess what…it’s not THAT bad. As long as folks use the Sounder, water taxi, bikes, carpool and such it’s not too bad.

    It’s like the predictions that closing the downtown bus tunnel for light rail work was going to “cripple” downtown streets. In fact, after a little thinking, reworking a few streets and lights, and moving ALL of those buses from the tunnel back to the surface streets, the surface streets actually moved FASTER.

    There’s never one single solution. You need to utilize whatever methods you can. But it’s obvious that the anti-transit folks who say the “only” solution is to build more roads are wrong.

  • Sue August 15, 2007 (9:32 am)

    David, I think a large amount of the people taking alternates are only doing so because it’s temporary. Or people are simply on vacation – we’ve got 10 people out this week, and our company isn’t that big. People can often put up with a little inconvenience when there’s an end in sight. If you told someone they had to make their commute longer or less convenient with public transit that they weren’t used to taking, and that it would be permanent, I don’t think it would be going over as well. I’m a bus commuter and don’t have a problem doing what I have to do to get to work – when I lived in the NYC area I commuted 4 hours a day for work on 3 trains – but I don’t think that’s the norm, especially out here. Not that I’m saying more roads are the answer, but that I doubt this easy commute could last indefinitely.

  • Vanessa August 15, 2007 (9:38 am)

    Can you get on I-90 after crossing the West Seattle Bridge? I can’t tell from the web-cams. I figured someone could help answer this from our wonderful WSB faster than I could research it. THANKS in advance……

  • Karen August 15, 2007 (9:41 am)

    I agree David. What if all of these extra things that have been done were continued? Things like extra water taxi and Sounder runs/ capacity, opening up parking areas at the Puyallup fairgrounds for parking, more info on HOW to use alternative transport, etc.
    It would be a shame to let this opportunity pass. So many people are focused on the I5 mess that right now is a great time to find a more permanent solution.

  • WSB August 15, 2007 (9:52 am)

    Vanessa – sorry we stepped away from the keyboard for a few minutes to go check into something else for our next (noncommute) post. Yes, I-90 is accessible. The lane configuration is a little confusing but it’s open. The 90 exit was only closed last weekend.

  • Chet August 15, 2007 (11:03 am)

    I appreciate the news on this I 5 project WSB.

  • alkisw August 15, 2007 (11:16 am)

    Does anyone know if the city plans to do any analysis after the fact around business impact as a result of the construction? I poked around their websites and I did not see anything. I agree with the comment that a lot of people may be on vacation or telecommuting to avoid this (those who can anyway). But, if there was some sort of work done with the businesses to determine any impact to the bottom line they may find more businesses supporting the idea of telecommuting or subsidizing transit costs. Might go the other way too. Just seems like a good opportunity to look at the numbers

  • GenHillOne August 15, 2007 (12:34 pm)

    I agree with Sue et al on the idea of this being a short-term change in folks’ minds and I’d love to know if there are any numbers out there re: vacations & telecommuting. This being summer could make a big difference too…many cannot be as flexible with their commuting methods (and extra time spent on that commute) when kids have to get to/from school, sports, lessons, etc.

  • Joe August 15, 2007 (12:55 pm)

    My biggest fear may be starting to come true. People think that because this project went well that we can do without more roads(or even existing). WRONG!

    This is working for one reason – because this is temporary and people made temporary adjustments.

    This in no way justifies or adds credibility to the no roads looney birds – but get ready – the newspapers and greenies are going run with it anyway.

  • alkisw August 15, 2007 (1:15 pm)

    Interesting Joe. I agree with you that there won’t be a day when we won’t need roads (until we have flying cars I guess) or even have to expansd them as a population grows. But, if I can reduce my office footprint/real eastate costs in an high priced urban center because I am able to have my employees telecommute successfully, it may a win for me, the employee, and potentially for all the tax paying citizens if we can reduce the need for road maintenance and expansion as a result. I think it would be foolish to not take an opportunity like this to at least research the impact. Like I said, the results may in fact come back saying that Seattle lost a huge ammount of tax revenue as the result of the loss of productivity in local businesses. Or it might encourage people to consider options for their work environment that they were closed to before. Proof is in the pudding.

  • The House August 15, 2007 (9:13 pm)

    I think all of this traffic talk was summed up by the infamous Flavor Flav many years ago….”D-D-D-Don’t believe the hype”.

  • Chet August 16, 2007 (7:46 am)

    Yeah Boy-eeeee!

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