1st commute with 99 ‘lane reductions’: Updates, alternatives

(Scroll down for updates – and send us yours!)

(Refresh for latest pic from WS Bridge & “low bridge” entrance cams, more on the WSB Traffic page)
6:17 AM: We’re tracking the first commute since the Highway 99 “lane reductions” were put into place over the weekend north of the West Seattle Bridge – more here, including our video from driving through that zone both ways after the highway reopened. So far – no problems, but it’s early.

6:38 AM: 1st report, from Hillary via Twitter: “17 minutes to downtown on the 56 … Viaduct didn’t hurt us a bit.”

7:01 AM: Thanks to whomever just texted us (206-293-6302, same number as our 24/7 breaking-news line): “13 minutes to Seneca.”

7:31 AM: Live TV aerials from KING5 show northbound 99 in the squeezed zone now starting to clog and slow, as the busiest commute time arrives.

7:46 AM: KIRO says it’ll stream live over the Viaduct shortly – here’s the link.

8:18 AM: Check comments for more updates. We’re heading out for a firsthand look at how things are going this hour. (And if anyone took the Water Taxi this morning, we’re interested in how busy that seemed – we’ll check with the county too.)

8:55 AM: We just traveled The Viaduct both ways through the work/reduction zone. Late end of the commute, we know, but aside from the usual bottleneck slowdown getting from the high bridge to 99, it was pretty smooth – less than 4 minutes from bridge exit to end of work zone. Will add video later. Video added above.

2:36 PM: We will track the pm commute in a separate story, starting around 4 pm. One tidbit – we’re told that West Seattle Water Taxi ridership was up 30 percent or so today (official numbers are not out yet). The WSWT is one of the options on our “commute alternatives” map below.

(back to original story) Meantime, here’s our map of potential commute alternatives beyond the standard “drive a regular route to the bridge” – click one to see details:

View Commute alternatives, heading to downtown in a larger map

37 Replies to "1st commute with 99 'lane reductions': Updates, alternatives"

  • East Coast Cynic May 16, 2011 (6:53 am)

    6:38am in the morning is too early to get a read on the lane reduction impact on the buses. It really starts heating up on the roads after 7am. A report after 7:30 will give us a better idea imo.

    • WSB May 16, 2011 (7:18 am)

      Absolutely, ECC. 8 am hour in particular, since people who start work downtown 9 am-ish don’t leave till then. Nonetheless, for anyone who might have feared, rationally or not, that it would be gridlock from the crack of dawn, we appreciate the in-progress reports. And if this is anything like the I-5 crunch (which was temporary) in 2007, the first day will be the lightest … then more people will creep back into old habits … so we will keep on guard all week to see how that goes. – TR

  • Kathy May 16, 2011 (7:21 am)

    The 4th Ave S exit off the bridge is a great way to get into downtown. I tried it on Saturday and it was wide open. Am wondering if you can get back on the W Seattle bridge from 4th ave S to head home?

    • WSB May 16, 2011 (7:24 am)

      Sadly, no. But you can take 4th toward the 1st Avenue South bridge and enter south WS that way (I have to draw up a different map for that!) – aka, the route home from Costco.

  • Colleen May 16, 2011 (7:35 am)

    I have a random question–the SDOT tracking “how long it takes to get to…” board–does that have the ability to track other distances, like how long it takes to get to the battery street tunnel?

  • SP May 16, 2011 (7:47 am)

    Hit 99 at 7:15..if people coming from the south would move to the left lane (which was wide open) there wouldn’t be such a back up merging onto 99 from the bridge. Overall it only took an extra few minutes.

  • Andy May 16, 2011 (7:50 am)

    Yes, there should be plenty of news coverage on the TV to keep us posted, too. I saw two different crews with cameras pointed at 99 on my ride in this morning.

    • WSB May 16, 2011 (7:53 am)

      I’ve added a link to a chopper stream 7 promises at 8 am. http://www.kirotv.com/video/27908501/index.html Problem is that they don’t do continuous news after 7 am. KING does, on Channel 6, so we’ve been watching them. KING’s ground crew, meantime, got off the Viaduct and was parked alongside … beneath … on Alaskan Way, from which you can’t see much. But we’re monitoring them all on Twitter too. … TR

  • Debbie May 16, 2011 (7:51 am)

    Be nice if they added a traffic camera on 99 and Spokane so we could get a better view of things before we leave the house or work.

  • westseattlegrl May 16, 2011 (7:59 am)

    i left wsea at 7:00, commute was fine. but…and observation. instead of opening the viaduct super early, i wish they would have taken more time to try and get the lines clearer. the old lines are all jumbled with the new.

  • tk May 16, 2011 (8:09 am)

    I can see the bridge from our house. The Delridge to 99 lane is solid backed up (99 north is slow but moving) but surprisingly the 2 main lanes eastbound on the bridge are actually moving (especially after the top of the bridge after the merge zoo) towards the 1st & 4th Ave exitis & I-5.

  • JimJones May 16, 2011 (8:29 am)

    Well, I just got to work in Fremont taking the high bridge to 99. I left at 7:30. Normally I would get to work by 7:55. Today I arrived at 8:15.

  • Kenneth May 16, 2011 (8:45 am)

    The commute to the U District via 99 took about 10 minutes longer this morning, and it was all due to bridge and on ramp backup. 99 and the viaduct itself were ok. Note to drivers in the 99 lane on the bridge and any drivers headed north on 99 from south of the bridge: let people merge!

  • sun*e May 16, 2011 (8:46 am)

    If you go on the KING 5 website / traffic / plan your route: type in your address or zip code (point A) to your address or zip code (point B), it will give you both the fastest route and the direct route plus the time it will take to get there in both cases. Check it out:
    Drive safely and good luck.

  • Alex May 16, 2011 (8:49 am)

    Well, I left early (on bridge at 7:05am) and did just fine, so that’s at least decent news. Perhaps the greatest impact of the lane reduction will be to make traffic slower at its peak, but not necessisarily to expand the width of “peak” times? My big concern was that traffic today at 7:00am would look as bad as traffic last Monday at 7:30am. In reality, traffic at 7:00am is mostly unchanged, but of course, traffic at 7:30am is significantly worse.
    I wonder how much it will change over the course of the week? Unfortunately, I will have times in the future when I fall back in to my regular “on bridge at 7:45am” schedule. Getting to work 45 mintues extra early is just not sustainable for me –I need my sleep! I’d rather move to a different neighborhood than have to permanently get up this early…

  • Sue May 16, 2011 (8:50 am)

    Figures that today was the day we had a substitute bus driver who not only came late, but didn’t seem to understand that he could use bus lanes. Got in 20 minutes late, but probably 15 of that was driver error and lateness, not the lane configuration.

  • Spamela May 16, 2011 (8:59 am)

    It was fine on the 8:38 54 to Seattle. Slowed down about 2 minutes because of cars moving left. Got to Sea about as usual. But, traffic was lighter. The roads are dry and it is overcast. Throw in some rain and/or sun and drivers are not going to be so polite.

  • dbsea May 16, 2011 (9:00 am)

    Came in on the 55 at about 810. Long line for cars getting onto 99 as usual. Slightly longer than usual merge onto 99 for the bus. Then slight delay with cars trying to merge out of the new bus only lane on 99. Then very slight delay as bus only lane ended. Then it opened up and moved nicely.

    Overall, only a slightly longer than usual ride and I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been looking for it. Oh, but we do have that new & interesting giant white thing to look at now.

  • Jack Loblaw May 16, 2011 (9:07 am)

    Just drove into the city from West Seattle – took 4 minutes to get through the squeeze zone.

  • Raechelle May 16, 2011 (9:14 am)

    I got onto the WS Bridge at my normal time – 7:15am. Finally got to the 99 on ramp at 7:40pm. Once we were past the construction zone/lane reduction, it was wide open. The clog actually spaces out the traffic. Got to work about 15 minutes late (which is too late). Will need try and leave earlier tomorrow. Not horrible, but yuck.

  • April May 16, 2011 (9:20 am)

    I took the water taxi today, the 7:15 a.m., and it was fine. There were a few extra people, but not crowded per se. Lots of extra room. Smooth sailing. FYI – the shuttle bus does come a few minutes earlier than the schedule says, so be aware if you’re trying to catch that. And it was windy and cold waiting out there – at the bus stop and at the dock (the shuttle drops you off at the dock about 15 minutes early) so bundle up!

  • Megan May 16, 2011 (9:26 am)

    I know that I am tempting fate, but traffic today (7:30 am) was FAR better then all of last weeks mess. Maybe people accommodated their schedules.

  • ShortTransfer May 16, 2011 (9:49 am)

    Hopped on the #56E on Admiral Way and arrived downtown 8-10 minutes later causing me to miss my transfer to the #5.

    The bus only lane on 99 is a joke, it’s just one long merging lane into the other two lanes for both cars and buses.

  • Elliott May 16, 2011 (10:28 am)

    #54 left 35th/Avalon at 7:25. Arrived Seneca/3rd at 7:45. I think the afternoon will be worse. If the southbound squeeze backs up to Columbia it will impact downtown surface streets. Plus no bus lane southbound (as short as the northbound bus lane is – we passed 50-100 cars that were in gridlock).

  • WS commuter May 16, 2011 (10:45 am)

    Went through the squeeze zone about 8:20 – agree with the comments above about poor lane marking/signs. There was confusion, clearly. My guess is that as people figure out this isn’t too bad, cars will return, so I’m not taking today as a clear predictor of future commutes. Have to give it a couple of weeks. Today was pretty easy – maybe an extra 5 minutes on my commute (half of which was the crawl down the WS bridge).

    My complaint – the lack of police on the WS bridge to enforce the HOV lanes – LOTS of cheaters today, including a couple of motorcycles who were using the shoulder. When traffic is moving so slowly and some moron goes blowing by cheating, there’s a good risk of an accident if someone changes lanes or such, reasonably not expecting an idiot to come racing up at 50 mph. The same will be true in the squeeze zone with the people who will inevitably cheat in the “bus only” lane.

  • SLU May 16, 2011 (11:27 am)

    Not bad commute today on the viaduct. However the dedicated bus lane needs to be refactored. Cars are merging immediately after the interchange and this is clogging the traffic coming from the south. If the lane was used for merging for the short distance, flow would improve.

  • Buddy May 16, 2011 (12:14 pm)

    Be careful if you take the low bridge to Alaskan and turn on to Edgar Martinez… there are some canyon sized potholes. Had to invest in a new set of tires yesterday due to a run in with them… they were hidden by all of the rain puddles… I’m probably lucky there wasnt more damage. Transportation options in seattle are horrid… and no one wants to pay for anything, so I’m sure that these potholes are there to last

  • foy boy May 16, 2011 (12:39 pm)

    SLU You are right. I knew this would happen. Drivers just need to keep going to get up to speed and then merge in. Jees it is just a white dotted line an not a brick wall. Be a reble. It was also funny that the news reported our traffic problem. Before you never heard a word.

  • SarahScoot May 16, 2011 (12:58 pm)

    Elliott, I do believe you and I were on the same bus this morning. If I’m correct, and that’s your usual bus, I think we’ll fare pretty well for a while… our driver is so proactive about scoping out the best lanes and staying as on-schedule as possible. Plus he has such a good attitude! Which reminds me that I need to learn his name so I can give positive feedback to the KC Metro higher-ups. :-)
    I got to work within five minutes of my normal arrival time this morning.

  • HG May 16, 2011 (1:14 pm)

    Is it just me or did the sky actually not fall?

  • PDieter May 16, 2011 (1:49 pm)

    Tracy, put in a CD and turn it up….that’s all I got ;)

  • squareeyes May 16, 2011 (2:17 pm)

    While the wait to get onto northbound 99 this morning was a pain, ultimately I think it’ll be okay most of the time.

    I had to come back to WS at lunchtime for an appt so checked out 99 southbound. It was fine at lunchtime with no traffic, but I’m going to predict that the afternoon southbound commute will be truly awful — not just today — but pretty much every weekday going forward. It just felt awkward, much more so than the northbound restriction. I’m going to switch to I-5 for the afternoon commute until I see how it plays out.

  • AN Udder May 16, 2011 (2:36 pm)

    Buddy, I just learned that you can get the city to pay for new tires if due to potholes.

  • SaraJ May 16, 2011 (2:47 pm)

    I agree Alex and Megan!! Good points.

  • B Foley May 16, 2011 (2:51 pm)

    West Seattle is on the short list to being ****ed for a good long time, especially between 7am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm.

    One positive note for today’s morning commute – the Bus lane on N99 definitely helped with the merging down to two lanes and lowering the number those who procrastinate til the last 100 feet and muck things up for those behind them.

    My morning commute was about 10 minutes longer than usual to downtown, left house at 7:15, arrived downtown 7:50. Not the worst of days, but betting when it rains or the sun is out it will get nastier than ever before.

  • Recall McGinn May 16, 2011 (4:25 pm)

    As bad as traffic can be on the viaduct, I keep thinking that 2 lanes on the viaduct are better than none.

  • Lorelee May 16, 2011 (5:35 pm)

    I concur with comments from April. For these reasons the water taxi doesn’t work for most • it’s an inefficient use of time to have the shuttle drop us off 15 minutes early! Cold!

Sorry, comment time is over.