TRAFFIC ALERT UPDATE: Highway 99 reopens both ways after fire under Viaduct

(SDOT screengrab from 3:45 pm)

6:37 PM: If you’re heading back this way from points north of downtown, note that SB Highway 99 is closed from Denny, just before the Battery Street Tunnel, to Columbia. This is in the aftermath of a fire under the Alaskan Way Viaduct that closed NB 99 for a short time as well (but that’s since reopened). Seattle Police report an arrest related to the fire:

Both the Seattle Police and Seattle Fire Department responded to a report of a brush fire in the 1900 block of Alaskan Way just before 4 p.m. Sunday. The firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze that engulfed a nearby homeless encampment. Officers arrested a man who witnesses claimed set the fire. Officers will book the man into King County Jail for investigation of arson.

The Seattle Department of Transportation will be inspecting the underside of the viaduct in the area to see if there was any structural damage caused by the heat.

7:48 PM: SDOT says Highway 99 has reopened southbound, too.

25 Replies to "TRAFFIC ALERT UPDATE: Highway 99 reopens both ways after fire under Viaduct"

  • Jay Koster July 23, 2017 (7:26 pm)

    I got caught in this mess just as they closed the tunnel. I hope they throw the book at the individual responsible; it took me almost 2 hours to get from Denny to Columbia.

    Time is the only non-renewable resource we have, and I lost those hours with my family on one of the few days I get to spend any real time with them.

    • WSB July 23, 2017 (7:47 pm)

      I’m watching the jail register since it won’t be hard to spot someone booked for arson, and will follow up on it. Meantime, I’m updating the story – SB has now reopened too.

  • sandiseattle July 23, 2017 (7:39 pm)

    Got caught by this. Rerouted to 1st Downtown, may have PTSD after 90 minute drive. :)

  • James July 23, 2017 (7:56 pm)

    This is why Seattle needs to really do something about the homeless situation. It is out of control and not only cost tax payers millions of dollars but puts the safety of families in jeopardy. 

  • RobE July 23, 2017 (8:14 pm)

    Jay, I’m sorry you were inconvenienced for 3 hours of your weekend. I guess that’s worse than the people living in the encampment that lost most, if not all of their belongings. Their belongings are “renewable,” but probably difficult to replace. It’s all about perspective. 

    • flimflam July 23, 2017 (8:46 pm)

      you have to be kidding. these camps are dangerous for the community and those squatting there. “accept services” should be the only option – no camping, no car camping and most certainly no fires under the viaduct.

      sweep the area – accept shelter beds. these camps should not be an option. 


      • WSB July 23, 2017 (8:58 pm)

        Please note that there is NO information currently indicating whether the alleged fire-setter is a homeless person. (If he has a bail hearing tomorrow, we should learn more in the paperwork.) So far all the authorities have said (I checked all four citywide outlets too to see if anyone had anything beyond what we have published, the police report) regarding homeless people’s involvement is as *victims* losing their tents. There IS dangerous camping beneath the Viaduct – I had not been along Alaskan Way in months before taking a friend to Colman Dock on Friday, and saw something I’d never seen before – tents on the west side of the street along the construction zones south of the terminal, with no barriers between the tents and traffic. That’s an extreme risk to whomever sleeps in those tents. – TR

        • flimflam July 23, 2017 (9:46 pm)

          the very close proximity to “camps” would be a strong indicator to me. i’m sure you’ll follow up with the facts as they come, regardless if the cause was homeless related or otherwise.

          • WSB July 23, 2017 (9:54 pm)

            There is a suspect in the jail now with suspicion of arson among the reasons but I’m not 100 percent sure and won’t be until I can ask police/prosecutors tomorrow.

        • MellyMel July 23, 2017 (9:49 pm)

          Drive this path every weekday home from work. The latest evolution is that the line of tents — both on east and west side — are putting up tarps that bridge across tent to tent so that it is kind of one long tunnel structure. It is creepy during daylight as I crawl past and watch people trying to edge by to get to the stadiums on game nights. I am interested in a morbid way how this will be once it is dark again at evening commute time.

      • huck July 23, 2017 (10:59 pm)

        Could not have said this better myself!

      • Jim July 24, 2017 (8:28 am)

        This is correct. Beyond individual perspectives of homelessness there is the larger issue of what a civil society should look like. Since individual rights always exist on a continuum and are rarely absolute and since Seattle is becoming increasingly uncivil I agree that that public camping should be outlawed.  Accept services, accept rehab, or accept jail. 

  • Buttercup July 23, 2017 (8:40 pm)

    Even though the homeless has lost almost all they own, self respect and independence it does not excuse the irresponsibility of setting fires in tinder dry places in any sort of setting,wild, urban or wild. Stupid is stupid. This person put people’s lives at risk and someone has the audacity to suggest we should have sympathy. 

  • jissy July 23, 2017 (8:56 pm)

    Robe:  My 2 cents…. I find it unnecessary and insensitive to minimize Jay’s experience and comment-it is “all about perspective” so acknowledge that you have no idea of his circumstances and it’s perfectly fine for him to express his frustration on this open comment forum.  Perhaps he works graveyard shifts or 24 hour shifts or turn-arounds, maybe even a single dad who gets limited time with his children on weekends, you don’t know, none of us know.  His not mentioning his empathy to those innocent homeless folks who may have lost their belongings doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of it and feel it too.   I sympathize with him for his lost time, you may not but you don’t have to criticize him for it.

    • MD July 24, 2017 (8:53 am)

      YES!!!!!  I had written a comment similar to yours yesterday and deleted it because I couldn’t deal with an argument.  I’m so glad you say this.  I feel like people can’t express their opinion anymore without getting their eyes gouged out. I’d be ticked as well if I lost 2 hrs of my day driving two blocks.

  • M July 23, 2017 (9:13 pm)

    I left WS at 4:25. I drove the lane to the viaduct and then noticed cars moving over after you take the exit.  I was getting ready to do the same thing, but I lucked out. The police officer just removed the cones and flagged me to continue on the exit.  I have to admit, it sure was nice driving in no traffic on the viaduct all the way through the tunnel.  They hadn’t opened the onramps from the stadiums yet and going southbound was still closed. I saw signs sayong 40 minutes to Greenlake, but I was there in 10 minutes. I feel for everyone stuck in that mess.  Have people noticed recently that east bound from Spokane street at 1st ave to I-5 seems to be backed up all the time now during the day?

  • Mark July 23, 2017 (10:40 pm)

    The arsonist needs to be forced to pay restitution, how many lost hours x $15 hour would be one way to calculate restitution amount.

    And the City needs to stop tolerating lawless behavior.  

  • ChannelingLewisBlack July 23, 2017 (10:46 pm)

    Regardless of who did the setting, have we not learned what we saw in Atlanta where a fire took out an entire section of freeway?  None of our thoroughfares should be at risk to the presence of homeless encampments.   The renewed vigor which they’ve sprouted up underneath the WS bridge should be concern to all of us.  If the “answer” for homelessness is camping – and I truly believe in a city it is NOT – these should be placed in areas that are link risky to the health of all involved.  

  • The voice of reason July 23, 2017 (11:37 pm)

    Homeless under bridges has been brought up before and after the Atlanta fire. This is the third fire I know of in the last 6 months.  There was one under the WS bridge, at least one under I5, and now this one. Homeless are stll allowed to camp (some city sanctioned) under major routes. Unacceptable. It’s only a matter of time before a real tragedy occurs. I’m glad to see so many like minded comments. People weren’t always like this in West Seattle. Live and let live is quite a dangerous attitude sometimes. The writing is on the wall. I hope someone in city or state government is held criminally responsible if/when a homeless fire destroys our already crippled infrastructure.

    • WSB July 24, 2017 (12:08 am)

      Which of these six city-sanctioned encampments is under a “major route”?

      • Michael July 24, 2017 (1:18 am)

        There are homeless camps under major routes.  Even if they are not “city-sanctioned” they are still “allowed” by their existence.

      • wsn00b July 24, 2017 (7:39 am)

        @WSB : The city’s policies and processes in action (and inaction)  implicitly sanction all the slums, not just the ones listed on that website. That said, I also don’t yet know if the fire is related to the actual slum in question. Either way, these will be around for the decades to come and continue to increase. I don’t think the city government (especially Seattle) has the will, vision or capability to solve this in isolation without broader state and federal government work.

        • WSB July 24, 2017 (8:38 am)

          You can consider it that way, but for purposes of clarity and accuracy, the terms “sanctioned encampment” and “unsanctioned encampment” have a very specific meaning and that’s what I was referring to. The former refers to the six (so far) encampments that are officially supported by city funding and services, via contracts, with community advisory committees having been set up. The six – one of which, Camp Second Chance on Myers Way, is in West Seattle – are listed here (the same link I used above):

          Click the plus sign by any camp’s name to open the extra info about it, including the location. – TR

  • WS resident July 24, 2017 (7:17 am)

    Our family was leaving the waterfront area, around the Edgewater, just as the firetrucks were coming down Alaskan Way.  We were lucky enough to avoid the SR 99 closure just as it was happening. One thing we noticed as we were crossing Western was that a couple of blocks north around Broad street, there was yet another fire with heavy black smoke.  The report was a car fire but it was unclear from our vantage point.  2 fires in roughly the same general area, along with the Bite of Seattle, a Mariners game and an otherwise beautiful summer day in Seattle made for traffic being a bear.  We were lucky in that it took us only about 45 minutes to get through downtown (boy do I miss 3 lanes on 2nd Avenue!) but fretting about it wouldn’t have gotten us through it any faster.  

  • Donald Minke July 24, 2017 (12:28 pm)

    Oh we should be ok…

    Per the Seattle City government…the freeways are rated to take that heat and we should be fine…

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