1st Avenue S. ramp closure, day 3: SDOT’s take on how it’s going

From this afternoon’s South Portal Working Group meeting for the Alaskan Way Viaduct project: This group has often received briefings on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, and that’s part of what kicked off today’s session, with a focus on effects of the permanent closure of the 1st Avenue South onramp to the westbound (high) West Seattle Bridge. SDOT‘s Bob Powers pronounced Monday and Tuesday as “pretty good” traffic-wise – but noted the congestion was worse on day 2. He says they’ve got observers out watching the traffic flow (and non-flow, “We’re taking a look at that, trying to fine-tune some of the signal timings down there to make it operate as best we can,” and keeping a log of how it unfolds. He mentioned the communication system, using dynamic-messaging signs and Twitter to get drivers advance word, if the “low bridge” has to open for vessels – checking the SDOT Twitter feed, it appears there was one bridge opening Monday morning and one Tuesday morning, but none today, and none during afternoon/evening rush hour since the ramp closed on Monday. “We have a very well-coordinated notification if a vessel’s coming through,” Powers said. Also from SDOT, Trevor Partap chimed in that “We’re calling in more police officers to help (direct traffic through the detour) … Today they (were) at Spokane and East Marginal, which was a little more congested yesterday. We’re continually monitoring, and once things settle down, we’ll look into” signal re-timing, etc. He also explained why lower Spokane Street, eastbound, did NOT open Monday as SDOT had announced it would during a media tour on Friday – and how long it’ll be till it can open – That plus a few other toplines from the meeting, after the jump:

Here’s Partap’s explanation for the non-opening of eastbound lower Spokane St.: The “electrical” problem mentioned Monday turned out to be wires/cables cut during construction work, rendering signals inoperable. Then they discovered that because of work on 1st Avenue just south of Spokane, trucks wouldn’t be able to turn easily – add all that to the staging that is still necessary because of water-main work in the area, and they decided they couldn’t reopen the eastbound 1st to East Marginal stretch of lower Spokane after all.

When WILL they be able to open it? The water-main work will take at least another month, according to Partap, and then they’ll review the status of the street.

Regarding the main focus of the working group – the Alaskan Way Viaduct project – members heard a detailed report from WSDOT’s Travis Phelps regarding the myriad ways traffic/construction issues will be communicated. “We lead with the Web,” he said, but detailed almost every other way imaginable to get the word out, online and offline, on the road and on the phone.

Looking ahead to the next few years of detours, there’ll be a clickable/zoomable map showing exactly how they’ll work – it was shown today as a draft, but WSDOT’s Kristy Van Ness tells WSB that it should be publicly available online next month. She also says official groundbreaking for the South End Replacement Project is likely to happen in late June.

Meantime, while the working group was originally scheduled to take a break till September, a few members including West Seattle’s Pete Spalding said they’d like to meet again sooner – a host of topics were postponed from today’s agenda, including the seawall and ferry-traffic coordination – so it was agreed that a July meeting will be scheduled.

14 Replies to "1st Avenue S. ramp closure, day 3: SDOT's take on how it's going"

  • Marie May 19, 2010 (8:54 pm)

    Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on what is going on. This is a big project and it’s hard for everyone to keep track.

  • ajwren May 19, 2010 (9:45 pm)

    hmmm… The low bridge was open to marine traffic on my way home from Sodo after work tonight at 6:45pm. I suppose that’s too late to be considered the evening commute.

    • WSB May 19, 2010 (9:53 pm)

      Thanks, AJ. I’ll check on that but I believe the emphasis time is 3-6 pm, for SDOT’s view of it, anyway – TR

  • Lou May 19, 2010 (10:05 pm)

    The reroute for the 21 bus and all other traffic is subject to loooong delays from the rail traffic. We sat on the 21 westbound at Hanford waiting for a train that went so slow and finally got to one car away from the end and then started to back up. We were delayed 30 minutes. It was ridiculous. I expect this kind of thing will happen all the time for the next 18 months of the project.

  • SarahScoot May 19, 2010 (10:17 pm)

    Lou, I was on that bus, too! Luckily I only had 7:30 dinner plans, so getting home at 6:00 was ok… but I caught the bus at 4:50 downtown, so it was definitely a huge delay. Big credit to our driver, though! Very proactive in calling Metro about the problem, and for keeping cool and friendly. I’m sure he was more stressed than the passengers!

  • flowerpetal May 20, 2010 (9:47 am)

    SarahScoot, I too was on that bus! I was more frustrated that I had finished the book I was reading on the morning commute and had nothing to read! It was exasperating to have this long freight train slowly go back and forth numerous times. Each time it seemed that the last train car was going to pass; it would reverse directions (again and again). I heard that Burlington Northern isn’t as sympathetic as the Port of Seattle.

  • JoB May 20, 2010 (9:55 am)

    They must have a very narrow viewpoint for analysis.. like just the traffic moving across the lower west seattle bridge.. if they think it’s going well.

    There is major roadwork on every approach to spokane street which is closed…

  • Ro May 20, 2010 (10:12 am)

    I agree w/ JoB – the traffic is terrible. Between the ramp closure, the lane closures on 4th and 1st, and the #$&*#$%^ trains it takes 1 hour + to get from SoDo to West Seattle in the evening – a ride that usually took me about fifteen minutes. It’s pretty devastating to think this will last for more than one year. I don’t know whether to move or look for another job.

  • JEM May 20, 2010 (10:38 am)

    We were all on the same 21 I think! Sat at tracks from 5:12 to 5:42 by my watch. Thankfully I had not finished my book yet! I guess the worse case scenario would be hitting both the tracks and bridge opening in one commute.

  • LAintheJunction May 20, 2010 (12:52 pm)

    I was also caught by the low bridge opening – on Tuesday – and it was barely after 6pm, like about 6:04. It took over 20 minutes for a large container ship to pass, and that was after waiting in a long line just to make the left turn onto Alaskan Way from the detour from 1st. I think 6:30 would be a more reasonable “rush hour” cut off (I’d actually prefer 7pm but understand that ships need to get through too).

    • WSB May 20, 2010 (1:04 pm)

      LA – I would urge you to communicate that to SDOT, maybe through 684-ROAD. They indicated at the meeting that they are continuing to re-evaluate. If 6:30 is a more reasonable cutoff and enough people voiced that, perhaps the time frame could be altered? – TR

  • jsl May 20, 2010 (6:58 pm)

    Thanks for the great updates on the process. I’ve been impressed with the SDOT website and communication thus far. They have kept close to schedule and are building trust in an on-time project. The end result looks great and will be a tremendous improvement.
    Dealing with the RR is another issue as I think we’ve all experienced the 20 minute shuffle shift of cars. It is about the most exasperating experience out there.

  • dieseld June 3, 2010 (7:04 pm)

    Just wondered if anyone was aware that in August 2010, the new 4th Ave ramp will begin “tying in” to the existing viaduct. In order for this to happen, I hear that the City will close the right lane of the Eastbound Spokane Viaduct for 2 months (around the clock). This means there will only be one lane open between 4th Ave and the I-5 ramps.

    • WSB June 3, 2010 (7:05 pm)

      We reported that in the story the Friday before the ramp closure, and will certainly be issuing ongoing warnings as it gets closer … TR

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