Viaduct south end ‘ahead of schedule,’ & other meeting toplines

(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.)

18 Replies to "Viaduct south end 'ahead of schedule,' & other meeting toplines"

  • Brian June 1, 2011 (7:37 pm)

    When you speak with the Port, please confirm that the bicycle detour will still be open at Spokane and East Marginal. There is really no alternative for anyone walking or biking to and from West Seattle.

  • redblack June 1, 2011 (9:07 pm)

    bend over and open the pocketbooks, seattle. this tunnel is going through whether you like it or not. and you’re going to pay for it long after it’s bored.
    welcome to california.

  • Curtis June 1, 2011 (9:55 pm)

    “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.”

    That’s because everyone was still stuck in traffic. Seriously? All of West Seattle has 15 minutes added to our commute and Nothing much came up?

  • Kelly June 1, 2011 (10:15 pm)

    I spoke with some of the seawall project folks who said that bike access would be improving as the project(s) proceed(s). It’s been funky recently with all the changes to the route but I understand that in the future it’ll stick to the lanes/paths on the water side of things–all the way to downtown.

  • Watertowerjoey June 2, 2011 (6:17 am)

    I still don’t understand why they don’t look at relieving the Spokane street viaduct choke point(between 1st and I-5) by making one of the westbound lanes reversible.

  • Pete June 2, 2011 (7:38 am)

    Curtis….if you were at the table and had a chance to speak what exactly would you have brought up? The opportunity for questions was after a progress report on construction to this point had concluded. I am just curious what questions you have that need to be answered that have not been covered by WSDOT, SDOT, WSB and others.

  • sam-c June 2, 2011 (7:58 am)

    I don’t know what the SODO commuters typically do/ or experience. but, last night after picking someone up at the train station, we got stuck trying to come back from SODO on the low bridge. not sure if the bridge was open or what, but we sat for about 25 minutes, not moving, so we turned around to 1st/ bridge, and took it to west marginal. it was around around 6:30 pm: is that standstill typical?

  • Justin June 2, 2011 (10:05 am)

    The traffic on the West Seattle bridge since the closure of lanes on 99 has been terrible. I agree with Curtis on this, how could this had not been mentioned in that meeting?

  • sam-c June 2, 2011 (11:01 am)

    saw this story flash by on the news this morning while I was getting ready for work. by WSDOT accounts, the added time is 2-19 minutes

  • WSB June 2, 2011 (11:22 am)

    There is a correction in that story – their max is now 9 minutes, not 19. WSB’ers have been tracking this all along via what actual drivers report, which seems to be a better gauge than “official” stats. Looking at the language at the end of the story, this appears to be a spinoff of our story from last night (there were no other reporters at the meeting, just me) – TR

  • NoMoreHomeForSupper June 2, 2011 (4:52 pm)

    the columbia st on-ramp to 99 is a major issue in downtown right now, what usually takes 5-10 minutes max to reach the columbia st on-ramp from virginia st, now takes 30-40 at rush hour, which is what my entire commute took before the lane reductions. it’s alarming that just reducing 99 to 2 lanes for 1/4 or so can produce that much gridlock in this city. and that is one of the exits they’ll eliminate with the tunnel. this is new york style traffic and gridlock; worried about what the future holds and whether or not i’ll be able to live here for much longer.

  • Stacy June 2, 2011 (7:21 pm)

    9 minutes? I’m sorry, but it has added *at least* 20 minutes to my commute in the morning (except for maybe the very first day when traffic was exceptionally light). I usually hit the bridge between 8 and 9. Tried this morning between 7 and 8, and it was just as bad! Not to mention absolutely infuriating to merge into the far right lane, early on – only to watch countless numbers of RUDE people jump the line.

  • redblack June 2, 2011 (8:45 pm)

    yeah, no-more-home and stacy. that’s what you get when you let the “powers that be” decide what’s best for your commute.
    enjoy the tolls.
    mayor mcginn is right. we got shafted.
    a vote for the tunnel (not that we ever had one) is a vote for screwy access to/from and reduced capacity for highway 99.

  • Larry Bernandez June 2, 2011 (10:09 pm)

    can we have a vote to just leave the viaduct as is and take our chances? The viaduct has some of the greatest views in the state of downtown, the sound and the olympics. I know drivers shouldn’t be admiring these views but man what better way is there to show off our amazing scenery than to take a friend or family member from out of town on a stroll on the viaduct? Don’t want to offend people but if and when we do have “The big one” there will be thousands and thousands of casualties. You could be caught in one of the thousands of brick deteriorating buildings in the middle of downtown that will surely collapse so why are we not fixing all of those buildings? why are we spending millions upon millions of dollars just to argue over what should replace the viaduct? yes, 100,000 people or whatever the number is drive the viaduct everyday. Those people aren’t on the viaduct at the same time though so in reality we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save the 1,000 or so cars that might be on the viaduct when the big one hits? the other 99,000 cars wont be on the viaduct when the big one hits and alot of those people will probably die somewhere else in one of the many buildings that will collapse. Leave the viaduct as is and spend the money elsewhere. I’ll take my chances of being one of the unlucky few to get caught up on the viaduct when the big one hits. might even be better than being in other parts of the city when this event happens. truth is, not as many people will even use this roadway once it is a tunnel because there will be a toll so why are we even wasting our time? cancel the tunnel plans and make highway 99 3 lanes again where it once was so you idiots can stop ruining west seattleites commutes! our commute is a fu(k!ng nightmare now!

  • Larry Bernandez June 2, 2011 (10:25 pm)

    can’t stop mother nature. How do we know for sure that this tunnel will not collapse when a 9.0 earthquake hits? Alot of money is being wasted on something that might not even work. Would rather be on a viaduct that collapses than be entombed in a tunnel that collapses.

  • Seaviewer June 3, 2011 (1:14 am)


    We don’t need to speculate about 9.0 earthquakes. The problem with the Viaduct is it has the potential to fall in a much smaller (and thus much more likely) quake. You are talking about a once in a thousand year event at worst.

    Recall that the Viaduct was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake which measured a mere 6.8 and was located some 30 miles beneath Anderson Island.

    Out of all of our fair city’s bridges/elevated roadways, the Viaduct is the most likely to collapse in any quake. It’s also an enormous eyesore. It needs to be replaced.

  • M June 3, 2011 (10:38 am)

    Then replace it with a new viaduct. The current one has served us well for over half a century. The eyesore argument is for idiots who think bicycles will solve our traffic problems, like the current mayor.

  • Seaviewer June 3, 2011 (12:05 pm)


    I certainly don’t think bicycles are going to solve everything. We live in a terrible city for widespread bike riding. (bad weather + lots of hills).

    But it’s clearly an eyesore. And it severs downtown from the waterfront.

    Another benefit of a tunnel is we can continue using the viaduct while they build the tunnel underneath it.

    If we were replacing the viaduct, we’d be without a viaduct right now. You think two lanes is bad? Try zero. And for years.

Sorry, comment time is over.