Video: New lanes open on westbound Spokane Street Viaduct

As we’ve done with previous projects, we took a drive on the newly opened lanes of the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct, particularly for those who commute home via I-5 or Beacon Hill to the West Seattle Bridge and might be interested in a preview. As SDOT warned, the lanes are narrower, and they’ve reduced the speed limit. From their announcement, here’s what’s next:

Following this initial traffic shift, the contractor will connect the old and new structures, construct a new center median between the old and new structures, and install new lighting in the median. Over the next few months, eastbound traffic will be shifted from the south side to the north side of the old structure so that the contractor can begin demolition of the existing south barrier. This spring, eastbound traffic will be temporarily moved over to the new viaduct so that the old bridge deck can be repaired and repaved.

If you’ve missed previous mentions – the 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the westbound side won’t be “fully open” till the project is done next summer, according to what SDOT told us recently. Meantime, there are no current changes to the eastbound direction – except that the new temporary configuration means a lot more distance between westbound and eastbound traffic (which you may recall used to have no separation at all!).

28 Replies to "Video: New lanes open on westbound Spokane Street Viaduct"

  • squareeyes December 23, 2011 (2:24 pm)

    Wow, that looks so narrow. I wonder how we’ll do side-by-side with all the trucks that travel the bridge.
    Is there a timeline on the new lighting? At the moment all the lighting is on the south side of the structure making the jersey barrier nearly impossible to see at night when going westbound.

    • WSB December 23, 2011 (2:31 pm)

      I noticed at least one temporary light in place in the new temporarily wide “median” zone. Anyone who travels this after dark tonight, we’ll be interested to hear what it’s like – TR

  • JAT December 23, 2011 (3:12 pm)

    As for the narrowness and all the trucks and the new lower speed limit I’m sure it will be just fine. West Seattlites are REALLY GOOD about speed limit compliance (winking smiley emoticon…)

  • CB December 23, 2011 (4:34 pm)

    The roadway is uneven and poorly constructed. I am amazed at how shoddy the construction quality is. At one point the roadway has a severe dip in the right lane. Is anyone doing quality control anymore? It’s clear the tax payers have been ripped off.

  • rockergirl5678 December 23, 2011 (5:44 pm)

    I agree CB! Having just driven the “new stretch” with a semi not far ahead of me….was actually scary as the semi tires “rubbed up” against the barrier on the right side…and he swerved around the lane to stay in it…good thing I was not next to him. The surface is not seemless but rather uneven and the lanes are way to skinny. Don’t see why they couldn’t have done a better job and I will continue to avoid the stretch as much as I can til this is all done!

  • xyz December 23, 2011 (5:59 pm)

    Looked pretty bumpy from the video, I’m with rocker girl about avoiding this stretch as much as possible until it gets finished.

  • Ted Nakahara December 23, 2011 (6:25 pm)

    Hey dummies, the dip in the right lane is leading to what is going to be the new off/on ramp at 1st Avenue. I drove it today with great excitement!
    Does anyone have situational awareness anymore? It’s clear CB does not. Looking forward to not having a scaredy cat driver like rockergirl5678 on the new stretch, may make that commute better.

  • rosenlaw December 23, 2011 (7:09 pm)

    This is stupid. When was the last time traffic ever backed up going westbound?? Never that I can recall.

    So WHY aren’t they opening more eastbound lanes where the daily and horrendous backups getting on I-5 are? Oh, and while I’m on my rant, they really need to start ticketing and preferably arresting all the ultra rude selfish and annoying people that take the right lane all the way to the end and then slam on their brakes to force their way into the northbound I-5 ramp. They should put a mile of barriers in between the lanes to stop that BS once and for all…

  • Ted Nakahara December 23, 2011 (7:25 pm)

    double post
    **red face**

  • dsa December 23, 2011 (7:59 pm)

    The surface should have met smoothness specifications (hills and valleys) before the traffic switch. If out of spec, the standard procedure would be grinding the high spots off.

  • 22blades December 23, 2011 (8:45 pm)

    Interesting that the traffic coming off I5 northbound now has the right of way going towards West Seattle. Makes more sense for the home commute when it backs up (down) the freeway. The 25 MPH speed limit sounds like it’s needed given the lane widths. 45 won’t work for those who used to whip through here in the formerly 35 MPH zone. I hope that if they grind it down to level the surface, they don’t leave those awful grooves like there used to be. Some rain or ice and it became a motorcycle disco…

  • 22blades December 23, 2011 (8:54 pm)

    Rosenlaw: the last time you saw traffic westbound backed up was when you saw “all the ultra rude selfish and annoying people that take the second lane all the way to the end and then slam on their brakes to force their way into the” West Seattle exit off of I5 at 5:30 pm.

  • Creekside December 23, 2011 (8:56 pm)

    CB – I believe the severe dip in the far right lane you refer to is where the new Spokane Street Viaduct surface was built to slope to where it will connect to the new 1st Ave South on/off ramp.

  • steve December 23, 2011 (9:09 pm)

    Wasn’t the 1st ave on-ramp supposed to be done before the viaduct demolition? Spokane Street viaduct has taken forever to get completed. And now we hear it’s poor quality.

  • wscommuter December 23, 2011 (10:18 pm)

    OMG … CB and Rockergirl … really? Really? “shoddy construction”? Please give us some facts.

    The “dips” you’re referring to – since you apparently haven’t noticed – are the engineered curves that will merge to the new on/off ramp to 1st Ave. That, and the road isn’t finished yet.

    Relax … it will all be fine. Jeez.

  • Mike December 23, 2011 (11:37 pm)

    I was amazed at how crappy the work is on this section. All the time they’ve been working on it and it’s not even close to being even. Ruts, bumps, ultra narrow and the kicker was the sharp turn towards the end of the new section where the Civic next to me didn’t realize it turned and he nearly had my bumper go threw his passenger window when he didn’t turn his steering wheel. Luckily I was alert and slammed on my brakes, honked and he realized he needed to get back in his own lane again.


    I give it a day or two and there will be an accident, probably at that same area I nearly destroyed an inattentive drivers car.

  • Jeremy December 24, 2011 (1:34 am)

    I still see the angry power poles crossing the viaduct after getting off I-5. I agree with the others the lanes look very narrow. Interesting how the next few months will turn out.

  • mair December 24, 2011 (3:28 am)

    I agree with 22blades. Don’t forget that the 1st Ave S ramp was delayed when the contractor made a boo-boo.

    Oh the politicians we have here in Seattle and the money they ‘mis’-spend. I commute by car for a living and moved to West Seattle over 7 years ago. In a city that only has 1 ‘freeway'(I-5), it was a terrible idea to reduce the 1 ‘highway'(99) from 6 lanes down to 4 lanes. The voters chose the tunnel after the last election even though it was voted down in the previous election. Democracy won so I can live with the choice of the last vote.

    My question is, “Why not reinforce the viaduct and build the tunnel? We are a growing city and we lost the only alternative to I-5. Before this summer, Highway 99 was always a great drive during evening rush hour. Now it is a parking lot at 5:30 pm. Wait until they toll 99 along with Highway 520 creating a backup on I-90.

    Seattle is a geographical hour glass and it will get worse with a growing population. Commerce will suffer as north/south traffic will become more brutal. Come on ‘Westies’, we have all experienced viaduct closures on weekends these last few years. It is great that they increased the lanes on the Spokane viaduct. They will need it to accommodate the mass of cars that will back up all the way up Fauntleroy.

    Mayor Nickles forced the tunnel on the city, county and state. The waterfront will be better for the tourists and the small percentage of property owners when in comparison to the greater whole of our population. People are leaving West Seattle because of the viaduct/tunnel mess. Property values are down and will suffer more because of the added commute hassle. Do we remember the monorail? For a while, it was a glimmer of good even though it was a financial disaster before it even had a chance to flop,

    Mayor Nickles was voted out. I hope it was because of the viaduct. Please join me and vote all of the politicians in favor of this current and future mess out of office. It is too late to change the tunnel but at least it will send a message to the crooks that sold out our ability to commute to work, in favor of the contractors and commercial landowner’s that will profit millions and millions at our expense.

  • rockergirl5678 December 24, 2011 (10:19 am)

    WS Commuter – we are all “commuters” together and while the situation is temporary and not “finished” at this point it does seem “rather rough”, not necessarily safe & definitely not marked correctly. The section towards the end where you drive back onto the original structure is very poorly marked and will be a problem as noted by several above. Either way it’s obvious our commute will not be getting better anytime soon. I encourage you all to make an effort to carpool or use alternative methods of commuting in 2012. I am a carpooler 90% of the time which helps make my commute a little nicer. If anyone is interested in finding carpool mates or joining a van pool check out King County Metro’s rideshare matching program online @

  • Rosanne December 24, 2011 (4:37 pm)

    This is exactly why my family is moving out of west Seattle. Now that we have kids we just can’t justify living out here. I get sick to my stomach when I see an ambulance stuck on the bridge in the crazy traffic & narrow lanes. We’re moving closer to the city and saying goodbye to the awful west Seattle commute!

  • boy December 24, 2011 (6:25 pm)

    I just came acrossed the new section and what a rough ride. It is not just towards the end where you merge back but the whole way you are bouncing around in your car. Is this the way our union workers are building things these days? I thought that the union workers were well trained and the best. But after driving on this new road I have my doughts. As a tax payer and a seattle resident this is an outrage. And we should not have to put up with this crap.

  • 22blades December 25, 2011 (9:12 am)

    Let’s, what did they say about the Monrail? Stupid, a toy… We both sank & missed the boat. It’s still a viable solution… here in Tokyo.

  • 22blades December 25, 2011 (9:14 am)

    Coulda had a monorail…

  • bob December 25, 2011 (9:38 pm)

    well I guess the people in west seattle are going to have to learn to merge with other traffic and drive in one lane only not the lane and a half they use now. it is going to be fun ……

  • Motorbike mike December 26, 2011 (8:30 am)

    I could be wrong, but that new pavement might just be the lowest quality of workmanship ever displayed on a Seattle bridge. And what’s worse is that it is as good as it will ever be right now since it’s brand new.

    In the past, the State banned a contractor for poor quality pavement work on I-5 near the Convention Center and that was MUCH better quality than this new Spokane viaduct.

    I realize it would be a disruption, but I truly hope the Port of Seattle forces a repave based on safety for the truckers. The project manager and McGinn need to publicly address this poor quality issue.

    It sounds like I’m clearly not alone in this sad observation. We should not accept such poor quality for our hard-earned tax dollars.

    • WSB December 26, 2011 (9:04 am)

      One thing to note on this … I won’t be able to reach anyone at SDOT until tomorrow because of the holiday, but for all we know, there might be an additional level of surfacing/paving to come when the entire structure is “tied together” – the newly built lanes, the old lanes, the future 1st on-/off-ramp. Or not. But we’ll find out. – TR

  • PSPS December 26, 2011 (4:39 pm)

    I drove this stretch for the first time at around 6 AM Monday morning 12/26. The comments above about the quality are, if anything, understated. This is very poor quality work, especially for a permanent structure. We need to know more about the background of the general contractor as well as the inspection records and original specifications for the project. It’s not unheard of for a general contractor to “appear” and win a project, only to “disappear” after the last check has cleared and suits are being filed. That’s one of the reasons inspections are supposed to be required and passed during construction. Maybe this is just the “new normal” in a society that refuses to pay taxes and, instead, funds everything with bake sales.

Sorry, comment time is over.