Viaduct closure: Thursday AM traffic updates

(More cams on the WSB Traffic page; travel times on the city Travelers’ Info map)
Viaduct-less weekday 4 of 5, and we’re back on commute patrol – updates to come.

6:15 AM: The high bridge is starting to get busy – as has been the case every day this week. (…few mins later…) First Water Taxi run has 76 on board. After three days of TV crews at the dock, nobody there today but our crew. Lots of parking – if you’ve been off all week, remember there’s special parking 6 am-8 pm at Don Armeni Boat Ramp.

6:30 AM: One commenter says early traffic seemed a bit lighter than the first few days of the week. Right now, though, live cameras show the same 6:30 am bridge slowdown we’ve seen all week. That’s the high bridge, anyway; KING 5’s chopper just showed the low bridge as well, and it’s moving nicely.

6:45 AM: High bridge busy-busy. No problems around the heart of the metro area. Weather’s still dry, too, though the forecast had been iffy. 84 people on this run of the Water Taxi. Though the WT numbers are notably down from the Monday peak, if you’re a stats fan, still way up from the average (scroll down this page and you’ll see the 6:45 run in September, for example, averaged 15 passengers on Thursdays – even without the 6:15 am run that’s been added just for this week). Low bridge still looks lots better than the high bridge – if you are headed south, another reminder, the new East Marginal Way Grade Separation flyover is right there at the end of the road from the low bridge, taking you over the tracks and toward E. Marginal.

7 AM: High bridge slow, low bridge good, no problems on I-5 (or anywhere else around the heart of the metro area). KING reporter says the Port of Seattle told her the ship schedule is lighter today, so that means fewer trucks (and trains, perhaps? see our afternoon commute report yesterday, as we staked out the 1st So Hanford detour toward the low bridge). Scanner’s quiet this morning. Twitter quiet (whomever tweets for King County is soliciting Viaduct haiku). Preplanned 4-day weekends?

7:15 AM: Unless something unusual happens, we’re updating every quarter-hour this morning. The bridges have been reruns – so far! – of the past few mornings, high bridge busy but NOT total gridlock, low bridge running faster, buses doing well, 1st and 4th Ave. So. busy. We’re still watching the Water Taxi, as it’s continuing to run well above normal (but no sellout runs since Monday, so don’t worry about a wait). … 119 on the 7:15 run, which is up a few from yesterday.

7:30 AM: Water Taxi lot half-full, lots of parking remains (some on the street too). High bridge loosening up a bit earlier than yesterday, but still busy.

7:45 AM: The predictions that today might be the worst commute of the week due to complacency, reverting to old habits, etc., so far NOT bearing out. Water Taxi ridership up again for this run too – 125, our crew at the dock reports, up from 108 on the same run yesterday. That’s still NOT a sellout, so there’s room on board and room in parking. On the high bridge now, you don’t hit a backup till past the (closed) 99 exit. Police are out ticketing bus-lane violators again today, per commenter Karla.

8 AM: Water Taxi parking lot at Don Armeni is full. But there’s still street parking. High bridge same as last report – doesn’t slow down till you get to the downhill by what’s usually the Viaduct offramp.

8:20 AM: High bridge looks good now, even past 99. No problems except some fog if you’re heading to the eastside (as our Viaduct Crunch partners at KING 5 just showed on the I-90/Rainier Ave. view). Awaiting the 8:15 Water Taxi report. … here it is: 102 riders. Down a bit from yesterday (maybe those riders just timeshifted earlier). Lovely morning:

Tomorrow MIGHT see some rain, per the newest forecast

8:45 AM: All’s well. If anything changes in the next hour or so, we’ll add it here … otherwise, it’s on to the news of the day, and to afternoon-commute monitoring starting between 3 and 4, depending on how things are going.

11:55 AM: Double-digit ticket totals for the bus-lane-violation patrol again today.

50 Replies to "Viaduct closure: Thursday AM traffic updates"

  • Michele Matassa Flores October 27, 2011 (6:24 am)

    Thanks for your great coverage, and for “staking out” the trains last night. Quick question: Is there a BNSF schedule posted somewhere? Apologies if you’ve already linked to it. I’m considering staying downtown late tonight if it would mean missing those trains.

    • WSB October 27, 2011 (6:29 am)

      Michele – Not that we have been able to find out. We even asked Metro if THEY had access to one (wouldn’t you think?) … no. I’ve also been rooting around looking to see if anyone had a train-tracking website along the lines of Flight Aware for airborne traffic, but again, not that I have found. On one hand, that seems crazy. On another, I suppose there could be security reasons …

  • ML October 27, 2011 (6:25 am)

    The traffic seemed a bit lighter this morning, left my house on high point at 5:58, got to I5 by 6:05, at work at lake Union by 6:12. Both the bridge and I5 had less traffic this am. Hoping tomorrow folks will be taking long weekends and even less!

  • HPCommuter October 27, 2011 (6:38 am)

    Trains blocking low bridge to 1st route.

  • wish i worked downtown October 27, 2011 (6:40 am)

    I have a question – if you work downtown and drive to work, WHY?? Why would anyone drive a route that’s covered by buses and the water taxi (with just a few blocks to walk), battle traffic, put wear and tear on your car, and pay for parking??? Even if you don’t pay for parking, I can’t believe anyone would drive downtown, so this is an eyeopener for me.
    I have walked downtown from here on weekends. It’s maybe 3.5 to 4 miles from the bridge.

  • coffee October 27, 2011 (6:54 am)

    Wish, because people cannot “live” without their cars. I used to work on the east side and my company paid in full for a metro pass and you would not believe the amount of people that refused them but would complain constantly about traffic gas, etc.

  • Kiddo October 27, 2011 (7:27 am)

    Judging by the comments yesterday, it seems that people are under the impression that the city, the port, the state, or Metro, or anyone else has any influence whatsoever over the railroads. Both Union Pacific and BNSF are operating their publicly traded companies on entirely private land. They are the ones who let the public cross their property, not the the other way around. If you don’t like it, give Warren Buffet a call.

  • Kathleen October 27, 2011 (7:30 am)

    Wish– I will tell you why: Some of us take kids to different schools and other places along the way. I love the bus and used to be a bus commuter (and can’t wait to go back to it once my kids are in the same place). I have to drive because I have one kid in grade school here, another in daycare on the other side of the bridge, and I work downtown. So for me, mass transit does not work at the moment. Wish it did. I can’t drop a kid off here, bus it with the other kid and walk almost a mile (or transfer) then walk back to work (and do it all over again at the end of the day). Agree with your post if one is a single occupant and makes no stops. For me, I wish it was that simple. But alas, it isn’t. Not yet. Sigh.

  • Michele Matassa Flores October 27, 2011 (7:40 am)

    Thanks, WSB, for trying to get train info. I kind of see the security issue, but couldn’t they at least say when the “rush hour” for trains ever ends, if it does? Or better yet, shift it if possible for a week? These are rhetorical Qs. No need to answer.

  • what a breeze October 27, 2011 (7:42 am)

    usually it takes me 9 minutes to get from Highland Park and Holden to Starbucks Corporate. Monday and Tuesday I was at 20 minutes and today was 11. Left @ 6:40, got to 1st and Lander at 6:51. Took west marginal and the low bridge, up onto the high bridge (where I saw a good 4 cars or so getting tickets – WOW) and off the 1st Ave. exit :)

  • karla3000 October 27, 2011 (7:45 am)

    A Warning – I crossed the high bridge at 6:50 this morning and saw SOD with about a dozen cars pulled over. They were ticketing for using the Bus Lane and even more officers were on the ready.
    Edit – the above comment referencing ticketing is new since I started typing, sorry to repeat. What I saw was also at the 1st Ave exit.

    • WSB October 27, 2011 (7:50 am)

      Thanks, Karla. They have been ticketing bus-lane violators every day this week (we’ve been adding the tallies to the morning traffic roundup once SPD posts them). More than 20 each of the first two days.

  • sam-c October 27, 2011 (8:29 am)

    Wish- I know a couple people that live in WS and work downtown who drive becuase they need their car to get to meetings with clients all over the region. some companies have company cars, but smaller companies may not. then like Kathleen said, with kids, public transit is complicated. if you’re even lucky enough to have a good day care option, dropping off and getting to work could take 1.5 hours+ by public transit or 25 minutes by car. then, there’s the whole ‘pick up by 5:30 or you pay $ 1 a minute. if you’ve got to leave work to take a not always on-time bus ride….
    those are just some possible answers to your question.

  • WsEd October 27, 2011 (8:32 am)

    I have to back up Kathleen. Before kid’s I rode the bike and metro. Now with school, sports, dance, martial arts, no way. We have tried it simply doesn’t work for a young family. Oh and by the way all of those high paying jobs that the politicos love to brag about don’t always come with a 9 to 5 schedule or a workday that coincides with metro.

  • CandrewB October 27, 2011 (8:32 am)

    Cities back East with rail all over the place build overpasses and underpasses. Rail listens to no one. It’s just accepted.

  • jsv888 October 27, 2011 (8:32 am)

    Left Highpoint at 6:30am and got to Bellevue at 7:00am. The bridge was no worse than normal days when the viaduct is open despite NPR saying traffic was “heavy.”

  • SuperAwesome October 27, 2011 (8:49 am)

    @Wish, I echo all the responses and add another. Not everyone works on a convenient bus schedule. I’ve done my commute from WS to Bellevue and it takes approximately 30 – 45 minutes to drive it. The bus takes almost 2 hours including 3 transfers and walking a mile. It’s just not a viable option for me and a lot of others.

  • mickey mouse October 27, 2011 (8:54 am)

    As for the why don’t we all take the bus?? Well, if metro had a bus route that left the west side and went directly to First Hill I would. It takes me 12 min to get to work and about 20 to get home. To take bus, get to downtown and then have to walk up to First Hill or wait in dark for transfer bus to get up the hill it would be minimum 1 hour each way. Thats is nuts. Also not everyone has the ability to walk easliy like many of the commentors. Give some of us car folks a break.

  • DMB October 27, 2011 (8:56 am)

    Has anyone noticed that the gate they installed to close off traffic to the north bound 99 direction is in the up position? It it’s not being used Now, when?????

    • WSB October 27, 2011 (9:02 am)

      The gates are only for earthquakes.

  • DMB October 27, 2011 (8:58 am)


  • jno October 27, 2011 (9:13 am)

    I just posted this on yesterday afternoon’s thread but (IMHO) it bears repeating. I understand BNSF has the authority to do pretty much as they please. HOWEVER. The 1st Ave S on-ramp to Spokane would have been done in time according to the original schedule and rendered the situation moot. The state knew at least four and half months ago that they were six months ahead of schedule. The city could have accelerated the on-ramp work and/or lobbied the state to hold off demolition, neither of which happened. So BNSF screws us all and Metro can’t do much about it (to their credit, it seems like they are really trying), but SDOT and WSDOT most certainly should be held accountable for the SNAFU.

  • Neo-Realist October 27, 2011 (9:19 am)

    Following up on what Mickey Mouse said, I know one friend who drives to First Hill for work–no easy connection from WS and a neighbor who works downtown, but drives due to hip replacement and knee surgeries that limit her ability to walk and stand for long durations. Furthermore, her place of work is around 5th or 6th Ave which necessitates an uphill walk. She’s got the handicap sticker in the car that helps with parking.

  • Valerie October 27, 2011 (9:30 am)

    @Wish, what passes for “public transit” in this area is so lacking that the bus doesn’t work for a lot of different reasons, many of which have already been mentioned.
    In my case, I usually commute to UW, either through downtown or from the Olson/Myers P&R, by bus. Normally it works great. Today, though, I had to be at the Convention Center to exhibit at an event, and I simply had too many Large Heavy Objects to be able to take the bus. Sad, but true – the bus is just not a good option if a trip involves a lot of Stuff.
    On the plus side, I drove away from my place (near the Home Depot) at about 6:15 and arrived at the Convention Center by 6:50. I’m hoping tomorrow goes as well.

  • samson October 27, 2011 (9:47 am)

    Bus does not have hours before 5am from Arbor Heights and the ride takes 35 to 45 minutes to SODO area – usually it takes me 11 minutes to get from AH to Roxy to Starbucks Corporate too. I do have security issue on the bus that I do not feel safe with unexpected humans attacking out of blue. No thank you. I need my loud music blasting in my own transportation… my ears are broken!!

  • Al October 27, 2011 (9:50 am)

    To drivers who are using Andover/Yancy as a work-around to get to Avalon: you are using a major bicycle route. Expect to see cyclists here. If you are coming up behind a cyclist remember that the CYCLIST, not you, has the right of way and yield appropriately. Pass will care (that means slow and not passing near the entrance to the gym and especially do NOT pass at the blind 90-degree turn at the west end of Andover). A particularly aggressive driver of a red American sports car yesterday tried passing my friend here, who was on her bike – I was on mine just ahead of her, when the driver gunned it to get around her just before the turn and had to suddenly stop due to another car coming around the corner. The red car could have easily been pushed into my friend or the driver of the red car could have swerved into her. Driver of red car then gunned it again and passed me (again unsafely) as I was exiting the turn…he still could not have seen through the corner and did not learn from his previous mistake. Slow down, have some patience and learn that 3-5 seconds could save someone’s life.

  • wish I worked downtown October 27, 2011 (10:20 am)

    Thanks for the responses – kids’ daycare and heavy objects. Those reasons make sense. I wasn’t asking why people don’t use the bus to go places other than downtown (I expressly wrote ‘downtown’). Believe me, I KNOW why people don’t take the bus to Bellevue! I know Metro sucks outside of downtown, I use it all the time.
    I can’t imagine why a bus would take 45 minutes to SoDo. The 21 takes 20 from Roxbury.

  • andrea October 27, 2011 (10:32 am)

    it is funny how many people are up in arms about the trains and the lower bridge opening. bike and bus commuters deal with this every single day.

    if you don’t like it, buy less stuff and help curb the insane amount of consumption that necessitates these trains and boats.

  • Neo-Realist October 27, 2011 (10:40 am)

    Wish, if there’s an accident on the bridge, it can potentially take longer than 45 minutes.

  • Dc October 27, 2011 (10:41 am)

    When will the viaduct be open again?

    • WSB October 27, 2011 (10:47 am)

      Scheduled 5 am Monday morning. I will not be surprised if it is reopened earlier – always a possibility.

  • jno October 27, 2011 (11:01 am)

    andrea, I am a bus commuter and I do NOT deal with the trains every single day. I take an express which usually bypasses the madness, but the local governments have essentially eliminated that as an option when we need it most. While I support reducing consumerism, the idea that it would suddenly give ship and train traffic lower priority is pure fantasy.

  • Brontosaurus October 27, 2011 (11:15 am)

    @wish i worked downtown. I work in Bell Town and would like to commute by bus and water taxi. Unfortunately, I work swing shift. I could take the water taxi to work but it doesn’t run when I get off work. I don’t take the bus because I don’t feel safe riding it at midnight. I also can’t find people to car pool with at that time of night. So, that’s one reason why a downtown worker might drive.

  • andrea October 27, 2011 (11:16 am)

    it is not about priority. it is about the amount of trains and ships necessary. buy less stuff, less stuff needs to be shipped all over the place, less shipping vessels are required. not an overnight fix of course, but very few things are. as for the funding and service cuts, hopefully our fellow citizens vote yes to fund public transportation next tuesday :)

  • jno October 27, 2011 (11:58 am)

    I get your point, but we live in a just-in-time economy now. The US doesn’t make anything anymore, so stuff has to be shipped from/to somewhere. You’d have to upend entire industries just to make a dent. I’d rather just have the bypass back.

  • SarahScoot October 27, 2011 (12:21 pm)

    Andrea and jno: I agree with both of you. I also usually take a 21X home and thus don’t deal with the trains, but my husband works at Starbucks corporate and thus deals with it regularly. I also happen to work in logistics and rely on those trucks getting their cans to the terminal on time, and those railcars getting loaded to specific trips. I see both sides of the issue, and choose to just “deal” when I end up stuck on the wrong side of the tracks.
    I can’t help but think that the people who are making such a fuss about why and how trains are allowed to block traffic are the same people who would make a big fuss about their grocery store running out of cereal, without seeing the connection. We live in a time of global trade; trains, trucks, and container ships are necessary.

  • jno October 27, 2011 (12:55 pm)

    SarahScoot, thanks for your perspective. I couldn’t agree more with your final statement. Just for the record, though, the local buses taking the low bridge are on detour, too – albeit a longer-term one. That’s why the on-ramp situation cheeses me off so much – it already existed. They take one access path away, and then they take another away before giving back the first one. I will concede that bicyclists (edit: and pedestrians) get the short end of this particular stick at all times.

  • flynlo October 27, 2011 (12:59 pm)

    @jno “The US doesn’t make anything anymore….”
    You should check out ABC news web site for “Made in America” also check websites such as “Still made in America”. You will find that a LOT of things are still made in America! Yes, some of them are more expensive, partially because of the subsidization that you & I (and all other citizens who live in port cities) provide for ports both directly (you pay ~$.22 per $1000. of your home’s value to the Port of Seattle) and indirectly (wasted time waiting for trains & trucks) because the ports, railroads, importers… don’t pay a true share of the costs of importing goods!

    @SarahScoot – “…big fuss about their grocery store running out of cereal…” Unless you are purchasing imported cereal, the VAST majority of the truck & train traffic which impacts Seattle infrastructure is because of foreign imports!

  • andrea October 27, 2011 (1:04 pm)

    cheers sarah!

    dealing with it isn’t so bad. i bring a book, which is likely what i’d be busying myself with once i got home anyway, so no need to rush. i’m on a bike and though we do get blocked more than other forms of transportation, we luckily have the option to turn around easily and travel north or south and find the end of the train to be able to cross. or sit and enjoy the amazing view from the bridge while it’s opening and closing. life doesn’t have to be as stressful as so many people seem bent on making it out to be.

  • SarahScoot October 27, 2011 (1:20 pm)

    Fair enough, flynlo: My point still stands with another example substituted. Parents getting angry that Target ran out of the new video game little Jenny really wanted for her birthday. Or their favorite organic frozen green beans (from China). Or their favorite jeans. Yes, it’s really crappy when a train messes up our commutes, but the answer isn’t to ban train traffic.
    Having that First Ave. S. onramp to the bridge open again would help a lot. :-)

  • Mags October 27, 2011 (1:42 pm)

    So glad to see police ticketing bus lane violators at 11 am!!

  • metrognome October 27, 2011 (2:51 pm)

    jno — so, how many tax dollars should WSDOT have wasted in delaying this project? $5 million? $10 million? My understanding is that WSDOT and SDOT did consider delaying the destruction until the 1st Ave ramps were open and decided that the costs (monetary and otherwise) were too high. Besides, something you don’t seem to consider is that there still would have been delays and reroutes because the WB 1st Ave on-ramp to WSB would hardly have been able to handle all the traffic that usually uses the viaduct to get to WS. It’s likely that the low-level bridge would still have been a popular alternate route.
    The potential delays were well advertised in advance; seems like bringing a good book or something else to occupy your time would have been prudent.

  • Ash October 27, 2011 (3:54 pm)

    One thing not mentioned in today’s comment thread is in regards to the northbound 1st Ave S bridge traffic. When coming around the corner (say, from Highland Park Way), people need to not be rude and pass the whole lane of traffic all the way up to the light, or just before it. Going up the light and taking a right, when there’s a dedicated lane to curve around and onto the bridge is not only unsafe, it’s a total douchepuppy move. Or, like the person I saw today (about 7:20am, I was 3 or 4 cars behind when it happened), who went ALMOST up to the light but cut over at the last minute. Unfortunately for her, there was a large (unloaded) semitruck, and in the battle of trucks v. cars, the laws of physics are the only winners. Everyone seemed fine, but that kind of stunt showed that cutting in line is a BAD idea, no matter how tempting! Please be safe out there!

  • flynlo October 27, 2011 (3:58 pm)

    @SaraScoot – “Having that First Ave. S. onramp to the bridge open again would help a lot. :-)”

    Only for those coming from the north! How are people coming from the south going to get on the Viaduct? Is the city going to allow a U-turn on 1st Ave to get to the ramp? I doubt it!! At least for east bound traffic on the Viaduct the city has decided that people should be allowed to go both north and south. Apparently the city was incapable of designing an on ramp which would allow entrance from both north and south for west bound traffic! From 4th ave north bound, we’re still stuck waiting for trains if we want to get back to West Seattle!

  • jno October 27, 2011 (4:14 pm)

    metrognome: SDOT originally promised that the ramp would be open by September, so the fact that it’s not is problem #1. I’m not clear on what you think I’m missing or why the new ramp “would hardly have been able to handle the traffic.” Aside from I-5/Columbian Way, the situation now is one lane into WS from SODO. If the ramp were open, there would be two lanes in, and one (the ramp) wouldn’t be blocked by trains (not to mention the extra lanes on the high bridge which frankly are underutilized westbound right now). So even if some traffic still diverted to the low bridge, I fail to see how that could be anything but a better scenario than the current one. Yes, the potential delays were well advertised in advance. That’s all the more reason that the involved agencies should have been able to coordinate better (but I have a good book, so thanks for your concern and the red herring).

  • jno October 27, 2011 (4:19 pm)

    flynlo, from Marginal Way you could take the new flyover ramp to avoid the train traffic. Oh wait, that ramp’s not open (northbound) yet either. *smirk*

    • WSB October 27, 2011 (4:29 pm)

      Jno – the flyover IS open southbound. Not northbound yet, according to the port. We drove it yesterday, somewhat by accident. It looked so new and unused, I was afraid we’d accidentally gotten onto a construction site and were about to drive off an edge …

  • jno October 27, 2011 (4:33 pm)

    WSB, thanks – I know it’s open southbound. I was just trying to speak to flynlo’s point and be snarky about overpasses at the same time.

  • flynlo October 27, 2011 (10:02 pm)

    @Jno – My point was access to the high level bridge from north bound 1st or north bound 4th or north bound 6th. When all is said and done, access to the high level bridge is not possible from 1st and will require battles with trains from either 4th or 6th!

  • jno October 28, 2011 (9:18 am)

    I see, flynlo. If you’re south of Hudson or Dawson, you could always cut over to Marginal, but yeah, the area east of 1st between there and Spokane is hosed. I’ve never understood the lack of southerly connections there, either – probably not enough demand for it. Usually when I’m south, I’m far enough south that Roxbury or Highland Park make more sense.

Sorry, comment time is over.