Alaskan Way Viaduct’s future: New tunnel alignment unveiled

From the just-concluded last 2009 meeting of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project’s South Portal Working Group – with three West Seattle members on hand – the big news is the new proposed alignment for the tunnel. (Click the graphic above to see it full-size on the Viaduct project website.) The south end of this one runs further west than the original proposal, which is good news for the Pioneer Square area in particular, where some historic buildings might have needed reinforcement work, among other impacts. There are a few other changes of interest to West Seattleites – we’ll add those shortly (in the meantime, all the documents and graphics shown at the meeting are now available online – find the links here). The working group is expected to meet again next month, though the date has not yet been announced. FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: More toplines from the meeting:

*Other benefits of the new tunnel alignment, according to project managers – reduced impact on 1st Avenue South and improved pedestrian connections between the stadiums and the waterfront.

*Another design change that was announced involves the U-shaped ramp in the SODO area that once was going under 99; now it will go up and over 99 instead of underneath, which is expected to improve its connections into other aspects of the transportation grid at S. Atlantic Street.

*The detour site during construction also has been changed; the new route will be slower than the previous plan, designed for 25 mph instead of 40 mph. It will include a temporary onramp and offramp from 99 which will come down to connect with Atlantic.

*Project team changes were announced. Matt Preedy from WSDOT (a West Seattleite) is now accountable for “everything south of the tunnel itself.” His title: xxx. Ron Judd will have accountabilities including stakeholder outreach and community liaison

*Timeline – While an environmental impact statement “will be delayed slightly,” the project team said, the tunnel is still projected for completion at the end of 2015, and the start of Viaduct demolition at the start of 2016. In the shorter run, in the next few days, they will announce which of the 4 teams that “showed interest in building the bored tunnel” by submitting statements of qualifications will be invited to advance to the next stage by preparing proposals. “Urban design guidelines” for the project will be shown in January. Meantime, bids for the south section of Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement are scheduled to be opened March 24th.

*Bicycle features: “2 north-south bike corridors” were mentioned, as was the fact the “bike path will be lit for safety”

*With the new alignment and other changes, the project team says, disruption to traffic on 99 should be minor, aside from a few overnight closures. Most of the new components would have to be built, according to Preedy, before “significant South End demolition” of the existing structure.

*West Seattle group member Vlad Oustimovitch noted that the new tunnel alignment goes under The Viaduct (at Yesler) rather than alongside it, and asked how that was going to work. Preedy said the tunnel would be well below the elevated highway’s piling tips, and in at least one case would be under the area where significant reinforcement work was done more than a year ago to keep the existing structure from sinking further. Team members said they’re sure they can keep the viaduct safe till it “goes away” in 2016.

*The tunnel will have one section close to the seawall, which also has to be replaced as part of the overall project, but the project team also anticipates that will be deep enough to avoid trouble – below the seawall level – though they expect some soils work.

*Lots of discussion about how ferry traffic from Colman Dock will be routed – that’s still in flux.

*West Seattle group member Jerome Cohen expressed concern about accessibility from West Seattle, especially when people have to get to hospitals off the peninsula, during the construction period. Preedy said construction staging and access plans will be shown to the group in January.

*Another West Seattle member, Pete Spalding, voiced concern that he hopes “the length of closures of 99 can be kept to a bare minimum – any time we lose 99, traffic coming out of West Seattle really backs up.”

In all, there were a lot of positive comments for the changes to the plan that have been made since this group last met several months ago. We’ll let you know when the date for the January meeting is set.

13 Replies to "Alaskan Way Viaduct's future: New tunnel alignment unveiled "

  • TK December 17, 2009 (6:16 pm)

    Ha! Over my dead body!

  • RobertSeattle December 17, 2009 (6:35 pm)


    It’s a tunnel, it will be under your live body.

  • CeeBee December 17, 2009 (6:59 pm)

    Who are the 3 WS people on the South Portal Working Group?

  • Diane December 17, 2009 (9:34 pm)

    Alaskan Way Viaduct South Portal Working Group
    Jerome Cohen West Seattle Chamber of Commerce
    Vlad Oustimovitch West Seattle
    Pete Spalding Delridge

  • Diane December 17, 2009 (9:38 pm)

    Aren’t these also WS???
    John Huey Viking Bank
    Ed Shilley Nucor Steel

  • velo_nut December 17, 2009 (9:47 pm)

    Great news!!!!

  • PSPS December 17, 2009 (9:54 pm)

    Anything that will “keep people and goods moving on SR 99 during construction” is a good idea. The two-lane design, though, is foolish and short sighted.

  • Al December 18, 2009 (8:36 am)

    It’s unclear from the presentation documents here, but it looks like they kept the “dedicated transit lane” or “lanes?” northbound only.

    So heading southbound transit does not have any lanes? That’s bad planning. Do they not think people need to ride a bus southbound FROM downtown? Oh wait, it looks like the funding only covers northbound transit lanes. Southbound transit lanes will have to be funded separately (i.e. not part of this project)???? Is this correct????

    So all this traffic that comes off the new 99, exiting prior to the tunnel (i.e. most of the traffic) will not have two outlets on the street (formerly a new Alaskan Way by 2016 – remember that once the tunnel opens only then does the street network construction begin – and through Pioneer square). NOW it’s mostly routed to Alaksan! The estimated vehicle count on the new Alaskan was to be 25,000 vehicles a day. What is it now? It must be signifcantly higher. This will create a modified highway through the waterfront…wow. Just Wow.

  • creepmeout December 18, 2009 (12:49 pm)

    Two lanes?? One tiny little fender bender will keep people trapped in there for hours.Bad enough with three lanes now.

    We should be fixing our entire sea wall and not spending money on something as frivolous as this tunnel. The viaduct is just fine for most of us but darn it, its in the way of those developers and their view property. If you are worried about how it will be in an earthquake then you had better be worrying about every over pass and bridge, quite a few of those came down on the California earthquakes also. If you worry about traffic congestion this tunnel won’t fix that.

  • villagegreen December 18, 2009 (1:07 pm)

    “The viaduct is just fine for most of us.” Fail.

  • ellenater December 18, 2009 (2:48 pm)

    i hate the tunnel. it’s a very, very bad idea.

  • Free Lunch December 18, 2009 (3:43 pm)

    I can’t find a study that projects the current viaduct traffic flow (110,00 a day, 58% destined downtown) over these new corridors. Have they even tried to simulate this (e.g., light-timing along the new waterfront boulevard, etc.), or are they just guessing?

    Example: there is no overpass planned to connect the ferry terminal to downtown, so the light at Marion is going to be red for seven minutes every time a ferry unloads. Imagine if there was a stop light like that in the middle of the current viaduct. Now imagine your future commute.

    I’d like to think this plan wasn’t drawn on a napkin, but I’m not seeing much evidence to the contrary.

  • Bryan December 18, 2009 (9:19 pm)

    A two-lane, double-decker tunnel, without any downtown exits. Seriously?

Sorry, comment time is over.