Back on Monday, when WSDOT issued its two-week warning of the impending Big Squeeze on the Alaskan Way Viaduct between the West Seattle Bridge and the stadiums (our reports are here and here), Metro told us they would have info out by week’s end, regarding how this would affect Metro, Water Taxi, etc. And now it’s here. What follows the jump is the Metro news release, which is somewhat generalized, but we have followed it with West Seattle-specific tips provided courtesy of Linda Thielke at the King County Department of Transportation:
State Route 99 will be reduced to two lanes in each direction between the West Seattle Bridge and Seattle’s sports stadiums in the SODO area beginning May 16. King County Metro Transit hopes motorists will help reduce the number of vehicles in the construction zone by sharing the ride on a bus, vanpool, or water taxi.
“King County has been working with the state to beef up transportation service between downtown Seattle and West Seattle, White Center and Burien for more than a year,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “We think we have some terrific options that could significantly reduce congestion and delays during construction. Plus, with gas prices soaring, you can also save some money.”
Starting Monday, May 16 at 5 a.m., the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is reducing lanes on SR 99 on the Alaskan Way Viaduct to continue construction of new southbound lanes. This is a long-term lane closure. To prepare for these changes, there will be a full closure of the viaduct the weekend of May 14-15 and buses will be rerouted for that closure.
WSDOT says more than 87,000 vehicles use this stretch of SR 99 each day, with the heaviest volumes during the morning and afternoon commutes. If traffic volumes in the SODO area remain at current levels, drivers can expect increased congestion and delays on SR 99 during the commute periods. Spillover traffic could also affect alternate routes, including I-5, the West Seattle Bridge and city streets.
“WSDOT and Metro are asking people to change their commute if possible,” said Desmond. “Not only will it reduce some of the congestion, but it will also relieve your personal stress of trying to navigate through back-ups and delays.
“It’s convenient, affordable, and you’ll be in good company – more than half the people who commute into downtown Seattle already share the ride,” he said. “And, national studies show that Seattle area bus commuters save an average of nearly $12,000 annually compared to driving alone.”
Travel options include:
Bus – In anticipation of increased congestion on the south end of the viaduct, WSDOT has funded new bus trips on key routes connecting downtown to Southwest Seattle. It is also installing a bus-only lane northbound between Spokane Street and Lander Street to keep buses moving. Overall, Metro has 11 viaduct bus routes with more than 500 daily trips in both directions. There is also bus service to West Seattle/Southwest Seattle/Burien along the First Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South corridors.
The viaduct bus routes that connect downtown Seattle and the following neighborhoods are: West Seattle via routes 37, 55, 56X; White Center via 21X, 54, 54X, 113, 125; and Burien via 120, 121, and 122. Although letting someone else do the driving will be less stressful, bus riders can expect to see some transit delays or back-ups on the viaduct and nearby streets if traffic volumes don’t decrease in the construction area.
Metro is not currently seeing significant overcrowding on any of the bus routes in the SR 99 south corridor. It anticipates being able to handle more bus passengers, especially if they can be flexible in their travel times and routes they choose.
More bus service is proposed to begin in October for some routes. Overall, WSDOT is contributing approximately $30 million for transit service, which is allowing Metro to increase frequency on several routes, maintain existing schedules, provide rider information, and improve travel-time monitoring equipment.
Vanpools & vanshares – Vanpools are a flexible, cost-effective way for groups of five to 15 commuters to share their ride to work. Vanshares help fill in the gaps between transportation hubs and work. On average, vanpool members can save more than $6,000 annually on gas, insurance, and other commuting costs.
To get started, sign up for a ridematch at www.RideshareOnline.com to receive a customized list of others who live and work near you. You can search for existing groups to join or start your own vanpool. And, if you form a new vanpool or vanshare, or track your existing vanpool commute, you could qualify for rewards and incentives.
West Seattle Water Taxi – The King County Water Taxi offers 18 round-trip sailings between Seacrest Dock in West Seattle and Pier 50 on the downtown Seattle waterfront on all weekdays, with more service on Friday evenings. There is weekend service as well. Connections to Seacrest from other areas of West Seattle can be made on Metro routes 37, 53, 773 and 775.
Bus riders can contact Metro Transit at (206) 553-3000 for help in planning bus travel, or visit Metro at http://kingcounty.gov/getyouthere. Also, sign up for Transit Alerts at www.kingcounty.gov/metro/signup.
Information to help drivers plan for the lane reduction and learn about commute alternatives is available at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR99/HolgateToKing/CurrentWork.htm. For more information on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement program, visit http://www.alaskanwayviaduct.org, or call the Alaskan Way Viaduct hotline at 1-888-AWV-LINE.
Now, those West Seattle-specific tips:
* No. 1 tip — Avoid the Rt. 55 trip that leaves California & Atlantic at 7:51 a.m. That one is consistently full.
* Along with Rt. 55, routes 120 and 125 are seeing heavier loads. The Rt. 120 is particularly busy on Sundays.
* Routes that are now busy and are most likely to get busier during commute times are: 21 Express, 54, and 113
* The routes that seem to have the most open seats are: 37, 54 Express, 56 Express, 121, and 122
* Most of the time, Rt. 54 has good capacity to take on new riders, and will gain even more trips this fall. So, if riders can get to, or are near, Alaska Junction that will remain a good option.