(WSDOT photo taken last month in construction zone)
From this afternoon’s downtown meeting of the Alaskan Way Viaduct South Portal Working Group, one of the advisory groups that gets briefed on, and offers opinions about, how the ongoing 99 work and related projects are tying into our part of town:
ANOTHER CLOSURE COMING UP: For about a week, starting at the end of this week – specifics to come – the intersection of East Marginal and Spokane will be closed, according to the Port’s Mike Merritt. It’s because of ongoing work on the Port of Seattle’s East Marginal Grade Separation Project – the ramp-resembling structure you see off to the south when heading east on the high-rise West Seattle Bridge. He didn’t have full details – we will check with the Port tomorrow – but also said the project is moving toward “substantial completion in September.”
AHEAD OF SCHEDULE: As for the Highway 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct south-end work, which is now in full swing, project leader Matt Preedy told the advisory group that it’s “ahead of schedule.”
Exactly how far ahead of schedule, and how that affects previously discussed timelines, is still in flux, he said. As for where the project stands now: Four months of foundation work for the new elevated work – which goes down as far as 280 feet – is done, with about one more month to go. The upcoming weekend closure of The Viaduct (late night June 10th through early morning June 13th) involves support structures for the existing and new structures, Preedy explained.
TRAFFIC, POST-LANE-REDUCTIONS: Working group members were asked for feedback on traffic management in the 2 1/2 weeks since the south section of 99 was reduced by one lane each way. Nothing much came up. New working-group member Jan Drago (former county and city councilmember), who lives in the Pioneer Square area, brought up a surface traffic issue at Royal Brougham/Occidental/1st going westbound. Pete Spalding, one of three West Seattle reps in the group, asked why the southbound 99 area with the stadium exit doesn’t have an “exit-only” lane; Preedy said they need the space for drivers getting on at Columbia to be able to merge to the right, since most of them are continuing on to West Seattle or points south. But he promised they would keep an eye on the situation. Traffic flow was a major part of project planning, he said – “We spent half our effort figuring out what to build, and the other half figuring out how to maintain traffic while we build it.”
TUNNEL – TURMOIL AND TIMELINE: The entire Viaduct project’s boss, Ron Paananen, talked about the timeline for the upcoming environmental report, and how WSDOT is taking into account the city referendum and initiatives. He says the report is expected in mid-July, and a “record of decision” finalizing the deep-bore tunnel would be likely in mid-August, with that document including everything from responses to years of public comments, to more on the planned tolling of the tunnel. At that point, a second “notice to proceed” would be issued to the design/build firm – the one already issued to them is only covering design work up until the environmental report comes out. Assuming no delays, he said, they still expect the tunnel could be open by the end of 2015. But he issued dire warnings that delay is the biggest risk, in terms of costs; he said it’s too soon to say how the ballot measures might affect the project, but he said WSDOT believes that if someone sues to try to stop the tunnel – which they expect will happen – that a judge would not grant an injunction halting work while the suit proceeded. “We’re full speed ahead in delivering this project,” he insisted. “It’s a very complicated situation with these initiatives and referendum, but it doesn’t change our direction.”
(The group also heard a presentation about the Mercer West project downtown; if you’re interested in seeing materials on that and the timelines, WSDOT says it should all be online tomorrow, and we’ll add a link. The South Portal Working Group is expected to meet again in late summer.)