Viaduct-closure countdown: City traffic-center briefing

We’re just out of the latest media briefing on the impending 9-day, 10-night Alaskan Way Viaduct closure. Remember, it starts at 7:30 pm Friday – so it will not affect the “regular” commute hours on Friday. This briefing included state, city, county, and port reps, and reiterated some of what you’ve heard before – but it was held in the SDOT Traffic Management Center, a screen-filled (but windowless) room on the 37th floor of the Municipal Tower, to highlight the technology that will help monitor and to some degree adjust the situation during the days of most closure-related concern – Monday through Friday next week (October 24-28). Key messages:

*Lots of info on the city’s Travelers Information Map (including the two new live-video West Seattle Bridge cams we reported back on Friday) as well as the traffic times you usually see on the overhead signboards

*All involved agencies will be conferring multiple times daily (the three “check-in” conference calls are scheduled for 7:15 am, 10:15 am, 5:15 pm) and they do intend to make adjustments where they can – signal timing on key corridors (they’ve just added Aurora), for example, and use of uniformed police officers at key intersections that might see major pressure (like the 1st Avenue South and 4th Avenue South intersections with Spokane along the WS Bridge).

When Q/A time came, we asked some specific questions that WSB’ers have been asking. For one, we asked for confirmation that Burlington Northern is going to reduce train activity along the route many people use to get to the “low bridge” during the afternoon commute – WSDOT’s Matt Preedy, who mentioned this at last week’s Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting (here’s our report), said it’s not a formal agreement, but that the railroad has agreed to do what it can. (Mayor McGinn, who was part of the briefing, gave props to SDOT leadership for getting a deal for the “low bridge” itself to avoid routine 3-6 pm openings those days too.)

We have more to add to this report when we are back at HQ, including video, if you’d like to see/hear exactly what was said. But first, a question we posed to WSB’ers on Facebook last nightwhat question(s), if any, do YOU still have regarding the closure, and how you’re going to get around? Please post a comment if you have one (or more). We’re working on a Q/A-style story and will incorporate yours – if it’s something that hasn’t been discussed/announced already, we’ll seek out the answer.

ADDED 1:20 PM: More information from today’s briefing. First – if you want to watch the whole thing, here’s a link to Seattle Channel video. We have a clip of Brian Kemper, the city traffic-tech manager who spoke, as he talked about how the different tech components work:

We also have two documents handed to media reps:
*The official news release, here
*A bullet-point handout, here

Talking to one of the traffic-management-center bosses afterward, we learned that they’re extending hours in the center during the closure, too – instead of being open 7 am to 6 pm, it’ll be 6 am-7 pm. (Weekdays.)

48 Replies to "Viaduct-closure countdown: City traffic-center briefing"

  • QueenFrump October 17, 2011 (11:18 am)

    What is the best way to head south toward Renton and avoid the inevitable back up trying to get on I-5?

  • Bob Loblaw October 17, 2011 (11:18 am)

    Uniformed police officers at key intersections, reduced train activity, and avoiding routine “low bridge” openings — thank you! These are measures that should be in place even now.

  • commuter October 17, 2011 (11:25 am)

    Have you asked if they are willing to open up the bus lane to carpools for the closure period?

  • clark5080 October 17, 2011 (11:51 am)

    Queen Frump I would go down Roxbury to 509 or 518

  • DC October 17, 2011 (12:14 pm)

    QueenFrump- I would get on SR-99 south from either West Marginal Way or Highland Park Way. Enter that intersection into Google Maps and maybe you can find the easiest way there from your location in WS.

  • datamuse October 17, 2011 (12:15 pm)

    QueenFrump: West Marginal Way to SR-99 to 5 to 405. I take 99 every day because I live in Highland Park and commute to Tacoma. Easy peasy!

  • sam-c October 17, 2011 (12:15 pm)

    get to W. Marginal Way the best way you can, and then take 599 to I-5 to 405 north.

    depending on how you get to W. Marginal, though, you could be affected by traffic (people trying to get to the low bridge and/or people getting to W marginal via highland park way.)

  • jay October 17, 2011 (12:33 pm)

    getting to renton: take W. Marginal Way south to highway 99 which becomes 599. that leads you to I5, just a mile or so before the 405 exit. Depending on where you are in W.Seattle, it might make sense to go down Highland Park instead of W. Marginal Way. (edit: now I see all those other responses and feel like I know all those drivers on W. Marginal Way and 99 every morning!)

  • coffee October 17, 2011 (12:45 pm)

    Right, can someone explain why there is not current police or traffic officers for the key intersections that are greatly impacted when a train comes through during high traffic hours and there is a huge mess with trucks and people trying to get to West Seattle?

  • SJ2 October 17, 2011 (12:50 pm)

    I am one of the few people that must drive during some of these days. Who do you all think the best way to get to the Wallingord/Fremont area is? 4th AVE S? Not looking forward to next week…

  • EF October 17, 2011 (12:54 pm)

    Can vanpools use the bus lane?

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (2:08 pm)

      Re: the bus lane – No, it’s staying buses only. We asked Rick Sheridan of SDOT: “We will not be opening up the bus only lane to carpools during this closure. We are recommending travelers use transit during this period and a dedicated transit lane is critical for supporting bus reliability.” – TR

  • The Moons October 17, 2011 (1:36 pm)

    I take Highland Park Way everyday (since school started). Some mornings it is now backing up all the way to the old Zippy Burger & some times to the AM PM! Think a lot of people are just testing alternate routes, not sure that is gonna be a good one.

  • westseattledood October 17, 2011 (1:38 pm)

    What means are available to peeps to find others who want to “rideshare” for the duration – perhaps longer?

    What is being offered to the public to streamline the coordination of “short-term” ridesharing for WS? Anything? Any plans ever mentioned for a focused peninsula-wide rideshare marketing push before the big tear down? Maybe I missed any mention of such a sensible thing…

  • chas redmond October 17, 2011 (1:39 pm)

    The city and state keep saying that the intelligent motorist signs (the ones which say XX minutes to 99…) are online – yet NO ONE has yet provided an actual URL to see the data. WSB please post the one-link URL which takes us to the reader boards posted on the Viaduct approach highways – I’ve scoured the WSDOT and SDOT sites and honestly if they are there they are more cleverly hidden than a flea on a dog.

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (1:50 pm)

      Chas – I asked the question “when are you going to make these more user-friendly” – one click to get to, for example, the new cameras. They claimed they have fears of too much bandwidth being used if they do that. (At 25:45 in the Seattle Channel video, I asked the usability question – as the only West Seattle crew at the briefing, we were all but alone in asking questions – I think somebody from a regional news org tried one. Surprising, as most previous briefings have had plenty of questions, although they tend to be fairly one-note “how bad will it be” ..) Anyway, to your question. Here’s what you do to get travel times:
      Scroll down
      Lower right, click on the TRAVEL TIMES line
      It opens a window you can scroll down to see the various routes they track. You’ll see the times there, if available.
      Click the link for the line, and it’ll show the time on the map off to the right.
      If that doesn’t make sense, I can add a screengrab.
      Cumbersome, I know … which is why I asked if they would be more user-friendly soon … apparently no plans at the moment … TR

  • skeeter October 17, 2011 (1:51 pm)

    I live in Highpoint and work on Harbor Island. Any idea if this would be possible in a car? If weather is okay I can bike, but if it’s rainy I’m too much of a wimp.

  • watertowerjoey October 17, 2011 (2:02 pm)

    I still think they should make the closest westbound lane reversible during this time. Make it the dedicated northbound I-5 lane – it could merge back in just after the 4th avenue south exit.

  • Wade October 17, 2011 (2:16 pm)

    Thanks for the travel time link.
    It does not seem to be working. Can you try and re-post if there is a better link?
    Thanks W

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (2:19 pm)

      Try the one I just substituted in its place.

  • metrognome October 17, 2011 (2:24 pm)

    coffee — in a word, money. The rail snafu is one reason for the Port’s ‘East Marginal Way Grade Separation’ to build overpasses over the RR tracks for commercial truck traffic.
    westseattledood — try Metro’s RideShare website for all the options: or RideMatch for ‘instant’ matching:

  • Kathy October 17, 2011 (2:26 pm)

    What are the choices of routes to get back to West Seattle from downtown? (I-5, lower bridge, going south on I-5 to access West Marginal Way?) Is it correct that we still can’t access the bridge from 1st Ave S and 4th Ave S?

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (2:35 pm)

      Kathy – correct. There IS another way besides I-5 and the “low bridge,” though – south of downtown, you can go to Beacon Hill via the Jose Rizal Bridge and then take Columbian Way onto the West Seattle Bridge. And yes, sadly, you still can’t get onto the bridge aside from those three access points. The 1st Avenue South on- and off-ramp for the westbound bridge will be done sometime in the months ahead, but there will not be a 4th Avenue onramp.
      Then there’s the “don’t use the West Seattle Bridge at all” method. Take 1st Avenue or 4th Ave. South headed southbound to the 1st Ave. So. bridge, and you can get into WS from the post-bridge exits. Yes, we’re working on maps of all this, for a Viaduct Closure page … TR

  • jay October 17, 2011 (2:37 pm)

    Wait, are you serious? They’re not making the website more user-friendly because they’re afraid that people will use it? I’m usually pretty forgiving – but that’s absurd.

  • QueenFrump October 17, 2011 (2:59 pm)

    Thank you west seattle friends! We’ve only been here a short time and are just now figuring out the roads (previously) less traveled. Thanks again!

  • chas redmond October 17, 2011 (3:54 pm)

    Two things – call or email your City Council and Peter Hahn and complain about the lack of easy web access – and tell everyone you WANT and transit and West Seattle and South travelers NEED a 4th Avenue ON ramp – the Transit Master Plan is out for review -make your voice heard – a 4th Avenue on ramp will make transit travel between WS and SODO/Downtown so much more reliable – if they’re even half-way considering spending a couple hundred million for a Ballard streetcar, they better damned well be considering spending a few bucks on transportation improvements to West Seattle. Remember, West Seattle voted YES five times for the monorail – Ballard only voted YES 4 times – failing to pass the final measure – the one which actually killed that project. So, Ballard folks are being rewarded for their non-support of rapid transit and West Seattle residents are being penalized for the rest of our future with the lack of grade-separated transit between WS and (even) SoDo and further insulted with the concept of a tolled 99 tunnel – perpetually Balkanizing Seattle’s neighborhoods. Yes – please – write City Council and Peter Hahn (SDOT Director) – otherwise – as previously mentioned – it’s only bits in the wind.

  • Laura October 17, 2011 (3:57 pm)

    I am constantly confused by the road alternatives under the bridge. I often get frustrated and lost. It would be nice to know which ones do get you to downtown and which ones will send you far off into truck land.

    I haven’t found a map yet. Everytime I try it on mapquest, it keeps using the West Seattle Bridge.

    Also, is there another way to get to the ferry coming from Avalon and 35th, that doesn’t require using Avalon?

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (4:08 pm)

      Laura – by “ferry” you mean Water Taxi, right? You could just head all the way north to get to Seacrest – up California Ave till it becomes California Way and heads downhill to the dock. Or, you could take Avalon to Genesee to get to Delridge, take Delridge under the bridge, head left on Spokane (west) and get to Harbor Avenue that way, though you would still encounter bridge traffic on Delridge, I’m afraid. – TR

  • MikeC October 17, 2011 (4:31 pm)

    Regarding the use of Beacon Hill to get to the Spokane St Viaduct: it will be a cluster unless there are police directing traffic or the traffic lights are re-timed at several of the certain choke points.

  • dl October 17, 2011 (5:45 pm)

    Are they going to reroute Fauntleroy ferry to downtown to ease traffic on the WS bridge?

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (5:57 pm)


  • Gina October 17, 2011 (6:00 pm)

    A really scenic route to get to Tacoma. Take Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon. Drive across Vashon Island to Talequah, take ferry to Point Defiance. (my mother did this when I-5 was being constructed and “things were such a mess”, long, long ago.

    • WSB October 17, 2011 (6:01 pm)

      That’s how we go to Point Defiance Zoolights every year :) And of course the really radical, long way to get to downtown Seattle would be to walk on to the Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon and take the Vashon Water Taxi to downtown, that reminds me … TR

  • datamuse October 17, 2011 (6:02 pm)

    Besides Highland Park Way, you can also go all the way south to Roxbury and follow it east to where it feeds onto 509 (I think it’s Myers Way at that point, not sure). Go north and take the first exit to get on 99 southbound. OR, go south and take 518 to 5 or 405. It’ll take a little longer but traffic is usually light.
    If you’re actually trying to get downtown, that’s probably too far out of your way. Good solution for south end destinations, though.

  • Robert October 17, 2011 (6:09 pm)

    Have they done any polls on what the average West Seattle commuter is going to do that week? Several people I know are taking the entire week off.

  • nadoka October 17, 2011 (8:07 pm)

    OWS – for nine whole days we’ve got the place to ourselves.

  • tk October 17, 2011 (8:58 pm)

    For WS commuters going to downtown (who can use transit & don’t have heavy tools, etc to haul aroud):
    Consider the backwards route using the new light rail—
    Drive South away from traffic gridlock towards the airport on 509/518 and go to the International Blvd station which is the 1st light rail stop after the airport, heading towards the city (600 parking places).
    Trains leave every 10-15 minutes and you are close to the beginning of the line. The big plus- no gridlock all the way to downtown!
    The 12 miles south are well worth it & you will most likely be driving counter to rush hour each way. Hey, even after the closure, it might be a quicker way to get downtown!

  • Paul October 17, 2011 (9:25 pm)

    A WB on-ramp to the Spokane St Viaduct from 4th would probably be too close to the new 1st Ave S WB off-ramp being built now.

  • Mary October 17, 2011 (9:40 pm)

    Skeeter, Couldn’t you take the #21 bus? It would drop you off by the Chelan Cafe (sort of) and then you could walk across the bridge in about ten minutes.

  • ad October 17, 2011 (10:23 pm)

    What do you think traffic will look like coming into WS? I come from Tacoma…

  • metrognome October 17, 2011 (10:27 pm)

    Paul — you’re right; that’s the reason the old 4th Ave WB off-ramp was moved to 1st as part of the current work. There were too many accidents and slowdowns caused by cars trying to cross from the left incoming lane, etc. Just not enough room to meet current federal standards for on/off ramps.
    tk — good idea. For those without a car or who prefer the bus, Rt 128 which runs south on California from the Admiral District to Morgan Junction and then to Southcenter via SSCC and White Center also serves the Link Tukwila Int’l Blvd station. Kind of a slog and not for those in a hurry.

  • Chaz October 18, 2011 (5:50 am)

    A couple weeks ago someone put up a link to a website that was called sea cam (hot pink iPhone icon??).

    Does anyone have the link?

  • pc October 18, 2011 (9:47 am)

    hey everyone – I live in west seattle & work at UW. Usually drive via 99 north or bus to work. During the closure, thinking busing downtown then up to UW will be fastest. I work a normal 8-5-ish schedule. any thoughts or other suggestions? thanks

  • BB October 18, 2011 (12:07 pm)

    I guess we are actually going to find out how well the Surface Street Option is going to perform next week…ugh.

  • Stacy October 18, 2011 (12:42 pm)

    @Chaz……….link for the traffic cam app is below

  • RobertSeattle October 18, 2011 (12:46 pm)

    pc – I would suggest water taxi and then catch a downtown bus to UW.

  • LLP October 19, 2011 (10:27 am)

    @PC – My partner works at UW and in the morning, he has to wait while bus after bus passes him in the bus tunnel because it’s full and won’t stop. most of the 70 series (70, 71, 72, etc.) go to UW but if they are full today, who knows what they will be like next week. Be sure to leave early and plan ahead as the commute may take several hours by bus.

  • pc October 19, 2011 (2:39 pm)

    thanks robertseattle and LLP for the advice.

    might just skip the water taxi & bussing hell and “work” at Prost! all week instead. haha


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