COUNTDOWN: 8 days before Viaduct closes, the latest briefing – and our adventure getting there

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:

Seattle Channel also recorded the briefing, and you can watch via the SC website here.

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.)

14 Replies to "COUNTDOWN: 8 days before Viaduct closes, the latest briefing - and our adventure getting there"

  • David January 3, 2019 (10:50 pm)

    Nice to see (slide #20) that W. Seattle buses get to take advantage of the SODO busway on the inbound trips anyway.

  • Trickycoolj January 4, 2019 (6:56 am)

    The rescue response probably had the same impact as 30+ minute trains blocking Spokane St slowly rolling back and forth. Hopefully they have plans for that unfortunately common scenario?

  • James January 4, 2019 (7:27 am)

    I use my bike to commute from West Seattle to Downtown. A diagonal bike marking at the intersection of SW Spokane St and SW Avalon Way / Harbor Ave SW was under construction but the work is not yet complete, and even then that intersection is not ideal for merging with traffic. When I exit Elliott Bay Trail to S King St, the traffic lights are unable to account for cyclists unless I or someone else has pushed the crosswalk button. In the evenings, there are no clear markings for cyclists if I follow Yesler Way to Alaskan Way. The city has had time to plan for the Viaduct closure but I have to wonder if consideration to all forms of transport were given equal attention. Advocating for the use of bicycles is great but there are mitigating risks that need to be resolved. Quickly.

  • Gridlocked January 4, 2019 (9:37 am)

    No tax base, no roads; really quite simple. 

    • Kathy January 4, 2019 (12:36 pm)

      Almost all of us pay car registration fees but only occasionally pollute the air with cheaper than bottled water gas. You’re welcome for making less car traffic for you. Having a separate lane for bikes is safer and improves traffic flow. Really quite simple.

  • MJ January 4, 2019 (9:44 am)

    With no midday bus service the use of Sodo busway is moot.  Hoping for some dry weather to make biking an option.

  • Chris January 4, 2019 (1:33 pm)

    I guess I’m not following something; I fail to see how taking car lanes away – devoting them to buses only 24/7 – improves the flow of traffic.  How much use do the bus lanes get – maybe 15% of the time?  I know – they are trying to make us all give up our cars and yet they have not provided sufficient bus – and no light rail – options to us in West Seattle.  Also, I work on Beacon Hill.  To my knowledge there is no route from WS to BH – except through downtown.  And my job is not flexible – I work at a school.  I realize I’m just talking about my own scenario, but I don’t think I am alone.  And come on – when the new tunnel opens (which I will never go in), it’s not going to improve much.  Two lanes each way (where the viaduct had 4 each way) and no downtown exits, so everyone going downtown is either on I 5 or surface streets from here on out.  I think this was one of the most stupid things this city has done – and that’s saying a lot because they’ve done some pretty stupid things over the years.

    • KayK January 4, 2019 (2:10 pm)

      The 60 from Westwood Village goes to Beacon Hill.

    • Susan January 4, 2019 (4:14 pm)

      I’m with you Chris, with all the population growth in Seattle the last 20 years this whole endeavor is strikes me as crazy, with no downtown exits being the top of the list. The jury is still out, but our days in Seattle might be numbered, this is just one more big headache to living here.

  • Chris January 4, 2019 (3:10 pm)

    Thank you KAYK – good to know!  

  • re-phil January 4, 2019 (3:30 pm)

    Does anybody know if you can get to Queen Anne Hill via 4th Ave and Aurora Ave? I’m from California and new to Seattle.

    • WSB January 4, 2019 (3:46 pm)

      4th will take you all the way to the south side of Seattle Center. From there you can navigate to Queen Anne.

  • Peg January 5, 2019 (1:41 am)

    Will buses going northbound on the busway stop at Lander Street to connect with the light rail at Sodo? Presently When buses get re routed due to wrecks on 99 and the viaduct they don’t stop at Lander and the Sodo light rail as it’s not a usual stop to downtown. It would  be a great help if WS buses using the busway did stop and connect with light rail at Sodo.

  • RS January 5, 2019 (1:55 pm)

    That’s “funny” how, in the full-length video, the speakers keep on using words such as “probably,” “should,” “would,” “approximately,” “about,” and more. Did they (the City) forget to make accurate counts of buses, cars, people, during peak hours, etc., to provide concrete and reliable information for when the viaduct shuts down? The preparation for the impacts of the closure seems to have been done at the last moment, as shown for example by the last minute opening of lanes restricted to buses. I inquired about that to Metro 6 months and never got any feedback… (I use the bus to commute)Also, they ask people to use bicycles among other means to help with the situation, but at the same time nothing has been made to restrict the trains which cut the bike route from West Seattle to the city: When you face one of them, you’re good to wait for 30 minutes, which makes the bicycle option mostly useless.And what about having uniformed traffic officers along all bus routes in the city to actually enforce the restrictions? So many cars making a left turn from 3rd Ave to Virginia St when it’s prohibited during peak hours, but never enforced. I guess that will be the same along the new routes, particularly given that they will be brand new restrictions.What about making buses and the water taxi free for the whole 3-to-5 weeks to encourage mass transit? Why also didn’t they put in place temporary buses following the 120, 21,  and C routes in West Seattle but going to/from the water taxi? Yes, they put in place this small on-demand shuttle, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get to the water taxi when you’re expecting to. Buses are more reliable.

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