By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What happened to us on the way to today’s Viaduct-closure briefing was a reminder of why you’ll want to know enough about options for getting around that you’d be able to switch routes if you have to.
Leaving at 9:15 am to travel the 8.5 miles from Upper Fauntleroy to City Hall should have been enough time for a pre-Viadoom, post-holiday morning.
Taking the high bridge to the 4th Avenue S. exit is our preferred route, as City Hall is on 4th.
Today – so was a crash with a “rescue extrication” response; one person was taken to the hospital. 4th was blocked just north of the end of the NB exit ramp.
Kind fellow drivers let us switch lanes to the SB exit ramp, and we headed south, diverting to 1st Ave. S. at the first possible opportunity.
But – the story will be different if something like this happens in the tunnel-transition time post-Viaduct closure (10 pm Friday, January 11th). The 4th Avenue offramp will devote one of its two lanes to buses. Temporary transit lanes like that are part of the city’s toolbox for trying to ease the “Seattle Squeeze” that kicks off when the Viaduct is closed for the ~3 weeks of work that’ll be needed to #Realign99.
Today’s briefing was primarily about what the city and other transportation/transit agencies, like Metro, are doing, and most of it is information we’ve already reported, but now that the end (of The Viaduct) is in sight, it’s time to sit up and really pay attention.
So first, here’s the slide deck from the briefing (13 MB PDF). Next, video of the briefing, from our late arrival:
Of continued interest are the bus changes. The latest version of the South End Pathways map is in the slide deck linked above. Metro’s Bill Bryant recapped the metamorphosis that’s in store for the routes that currently use the Alaskan Way Viaduct – their temporary routes for the Highway 99 closure (three weeks plus the extra week-or-two to finish the new Dearborn exit ramp from NB 99 into downtown), the transition period over the next up-to-a-year while the Viaduct is being demolished and the new Alaskan Way is being built, and the routes’ permanent changes after that. The transitional time will put 40 to 50 buses an hour on 4th Avenue during peak hours, Bryant noted. And if transit gets overloaded, Metro will have 20 coaches on standby, ready to augment any route. Meantime, as the “pathways” map shows, Metro has two options for outbound (pm commute) routes and will be ready to “quickly shift” between them if needed – that’s part of why those routes will be passing through SODO but NOT STOPPING in that area.
A few miscellaneous points that caught our ear:
-SDOT is now up to six “incident response teams” to try to clear trouble faster
-43,000 people have signed up for the Viaduct farewell visits on February 2nd (go here if you haven’t already)
-The city has 7,000 employees downtown, about a tenth of them driving single-occupancy vehicles, and the city is working to provide incentives (teleworking, flex hours, etc.) to reduce that
-If everything SDOT does to try to manage traffic isn’t enough, SDOT’s Heather Marx said, there’s a “Plan B” with more signal modifications, increased street-parking restrictions, more transit-only lanes, potential operations of some streets as transit only, modified I-5 ramp availability/signal timing, restricted turning, expanded hours for transit priority/restrictions, increased “call to action” messaging and more.
WHAT’S NEXT: Tomorrow (Friday, January 4) at 10 pm, the Highway 99 ramps in the stadium zone (Royal Brougham and Atlantic) close permanently so the #Realign99 work can begin. Exactly one week later, the Viaduct closes permanently (10 pm Friday, January 11). If all goes well, WSDOT hopes it can open the tunnel at the end of the celebration weekend – the night of Sunday, February 3rd. The NB 99 Dearborn ramp – which West Seattleites will use to get into downtown from 99 – won’t be ready for “a week or so” after that.
Transportation managers plan more briefings/availabilities in the week-plus ahead, so keep asking questions, and we’ll seek answers. (Tomorrow morning’s briefing topic: Expanded availability of the temporary free downtown waterfront shuttle.)