Spokane Street Viaduct project: The next big traffic alert

(WSB photo from last month, showing where the top of the new ramp will be ‘fused’ to the old roadway)
SDOT mentioned it during the “media tour” we covered on the new 4th Avenue offramp in May – and now, they’re sending out a reminder: When they are ready to connect that new ramp from the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct to the existing roadway, they will have to close the right-hand eastbound lane for up to six weeks – meaning a traffic bottleneck between 99 and I-5. (On the bright side, they had said in May that it could last up to EIGHT weeks.) Read on for the advance warning SDOT sent around Tuesday night:

This summer, crews working on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) Spokane Street project will begin the final step to complete the new eastbound Fourth Avenue off-ramp, connecting the ramp to the upper roadway. The work is expected to start in early July and take up to six weeks, requiring the closure of the eastbound right-hand lane of the upper roadway, between First and Fourth avenues. With the completion of this work, the ramp will be opened to all traffic.

Just prior to this final step, the eastbound lanes of lower Spokane Street between East Marginal Way S and Fifth Avenue will open to traffic, except for occasional closures to accommodate the work for connecting the new Fourth Ave off-ramp to the upper Spokane Street roadway.

More details regarding specific timing and traffic impacts of this work will be available as we approach July.

The 60-year-old S Spokane St Viaduct carries 65,000-70,000 vehicles daily between I-5 and the West Seattle Bridge. Once the entire project is completed, the elevated roadway between Sixth Ave S and East Marginal Way will have wider lanes and shoulders, a new westbound acceleration /deceleration lane, and an additional eastbound lane between First Ave S and Fourth Ave S (leading to a new Fourth Avenue S off-ramp). The project also includes seismic strengthening of the viaduct, and a new 10-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of lower S Spokane Street that can accommodate pedestrians and bicycles.

For information about construction closures for this project and other projects, please visit Construction Closures in Downtown Seattle and SODO at: seattle.gov/transportation/sodo_latest.htm

24 Replies to "Spokane Street Viaduct project: The next big traffic alert"

  • Smitty June 16, 2010 (6:32 am)

    Obviously this is the best time to do it (weather, lower traffic volumes) but my oh my is it going to be ugly for awhile. It’s already painful heading east in the morning because of the 1st avenue construction – this is only going to make things worse.

    Everyone, please plan your vacations accordingly!

    Short term pain, long term gain.

    Good luck to all.

  • RobertSeattle June 16, 2010 (8:24 am)

    I’m sure there are reasons, but to the layman, it seems like 6 weeks to connect the road segments is a long time. Can they work 7×24?

  • xo June 16, 2010 (8:39 am)

    I’ve never used 99 so much in my life. This is gonna be a b—! Get ready for back ups all the way up the bridge. Makes more sense to take the Westbound lanes to 1 lane and keep the Eastbound to 2.

  • flynlo June 16, 2010 (8:58 am)

    What’s interesting is that the “jersey barrier” separating the east and west traffic lanes is designed to be mechanically moved by a special machine. Why don’t they use it to make a two lane road east bound & one lane west bound in the AM and reverse it in the PM?

  • CMP June 16, 2010 (8:58 am)

    When SDOT came to my office to discuss this particular lane closure, someone had suggested that they allow traffic getting off at 1st Ave to use the bus lane. At least that way those of us that are going to SODO won’t have to sit in the backup and contribute to the problem. I thought it was a great idea, but wonder if SDOT will actually take it into consideration.

  • RobertSeattle June 16, 2010 (8:59 am)

    xo has a great idea but probably too late – of the 3 remaining lanes temporarily remove the middle barrier and make it 2 lanes east bound in the morning and 2 lanes westbound in the afternoon.

  • Mike June 16, 2010 (8:59 am)

    Best route out of West Seattle might be to head south to 1st South Bridge and up 99. Of course, that bridge will be congested.

  • Alki Area June 16, 2010 (10:22 am)

    This will be a pain in the a**. Hey, if someone has a magic wand or can call upon some sky deity to magically do this overnight PLEASE feel free to fix this. Otherwise we’ll have to do this the old fashioned way, by engineering. It’s 6 weeks of inconvenience so we can have a new 4th ave off ramp for the next 50 years. I’ll take it.

  • rico June 16, 2010 (10:38 am)

    What in the world was wrong with the existing off-ramps in the first place? I know I know, they were just not up to modern safety standards. Over safety trumps general govt. operations like parks, schools etc. Whatever – this is gonna suck bad

  • S June 16, 2010 (10:43 am)

    Folks commuting downtown to work may want to give the Alki water taxi some serious consideration for the duration. For myself, I’m glad I work at home, and I plan to wander beyond West Seattle as little as possible for those few weeks, leaving more room in that single lane for you guys that don’t have that option. :)

  • wsgolfer June 16, 2010 (11:38 am)

    Smitty and Alik Area, well said. Short term pain, long term gain.

  • Tracy White June 16, 2010 (12:28 pm)

    Glad I’ll be moved out before then… one less commuter in the 7:15-7:30AM time frame!

  • JayDee June 16, 2010 (12:47 pm)

    I guess the buses will get trapped by the backup too–I second the earlier opinion it will back up the Bridge…as well as Delridge and Admiral. Even getting to 99 will probably be hooped as people abandon all hope of going eastbound and bail.

  • on board June 16, 2010 (1:33 pm)

    So I take it they will be working 9-4?

    It seems they should get approval for 24/7 work when it comes to this kind of disruption.

  • sw June 16, 2010 (1:41 pm)

    That jersey barrier is not the movable “zipper” kind – it is bolted into place. The idea of a reversible lane while brilliant, is probably not feasible for 6 weeks’ worth of work.

    What WILL help is if they get the First Ave offramp back to two lanes. I’m not too confident of this as their “5 week” lane reduction for water main work on First Ave S. is drifting into week 8 or 9.

  • dsa June 16, 2010 (4:55 pm)

    The contract should have been written to minimize traffic impacts by requiring 24/7 work in this area. But the city has little interest in minimizing traffic impacts.

  • dsa June 16, 2010 (5:02 pm)

    Driving by I don’t understand what work they have to do that is going to take six weeks. Normally this should be an overnight operation.

  • mar3c June 17, 2010 (6:55 am)

    dsa, they have to physically connect the new structure to the old one and make a nearly-seamless roadway surface transition. probably with big metal expansion joint hardware, too. you can’t just pour the new concrete up against old concrete and call it good.

  • dsa June 17, 2010 (11:54 am)

    mar3c, the work on the deck should be complete. If they sistered the decks, they should match up now. If they needed expansion joints as in separate structures, those also would/could have gone in earlier. And even still it should not take six weeks to do them.
    All that should be needed is to tie the railing together and strip the pavement.
    They could get a big crew out there one weekend, word 24/7 and get the job done.
    But just like the rest of this project you’ll hardly ever see anyone working anywhere anytime.

  • dsa June 17, 2010 (3:09 pm)

    Okay, there is some real work to do. I just drove by and took my eyes off the traffic and looked down. They have to remove the old curb barrier and match up the two surfaces.

    The two surfaces should be correct anyway, but the old bridge will need work to tie the two together. Is it six weeks worth of work. I doubt it, but around the clock work could get it done in less than two weeks.

  • West Seattle Wanderer June 17, 2010 (3:47 pm)

    Having just returned from Costco after sitting in traffic for 40 minutes, I’m boycotting downtown for the summer. Between the trains, trucks heading to Harbor Island and the construction around Spokane AND First, I’m done. You’d think there’d be SOME coordination between these entities…

  • SM June 18, 2010 (7:14 am)

    I had the same frustrating experience as Wanderer recently trying to get home from Costco via the lower bridge. Probably easier to drive on north to James and get on I5, or to Columbia and get on 99, either route putting one on the upper bridge to avoid that nest of potential snarls on the lower route.

  • flynlo June 18, 2010 (9:21 am)

    Wanderer & SM — When is all said and done, how do you think that you are going to get back to West Seattle from Costco? Access to the high level bridge is going to be very difficult from south of Spokane street from 4th ave and I don’t see how from 1st ave it will be possible at all unless they are going to allow a u-turn to the new 1st ave ramp!

  • dsa June 18, 2010 (11:41 am)

    flynlo, you seem to be correct, Costco and that whole area just got further away. These issues are a result of the city’s lack of a true public involvement process in the planning for this project.

Sorry, comment time is over.