By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As in “The Viaduct’s going to be closed forever.”
Multiple speakers, including Mayor Jenny Durkan, used the word at today’s last multi-agency briefing before the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent shutdown at 10 pm Friday (January 11th).
First – here’s the video, so you can watch and listen for yourself if you want to:
This briefing was held at SDOT headquarters in the city’s Municipal Tower downtown. Among the speakers were two new players in the city government’s transportation scene – Sam Zimbabwe, who hasn’t officially started work as SDOT director yet, and Michael Worden (with the mayor in top photo), the retired general hired to be the city’s mobility czar.
Besides reiteration that The Viaduct is closing forever, speakers hammered home the preparedness point. And while it was noted that it’s not too late to prepare, on the other hand, this has been “10 years in the making,” observed the mayor. “Traffic and mobility (will change) in the city …in ways it’s never been changed before.”
Another point she and others repeated: “We know there will be problems … something you can’t foresee. … No matter how much we plan, things will happen that are not in our control.” But, she stressed, everyone’s ready to spring into action if and when needed, including Gen. Worden, whose role is to work “across 29 different departments. …. We want to be sure we have one point of contact.” She gave an example – a tree comes down, it’s more than SDOT, maybe City Light too because it takes out wires, etc.
Second to speak was City Councilmember Mike O’Brien – there as the council’s Transportation Committee chair – also picking up on a mayoral point that everyone is part of the solution: Since not everyone can be flexible in terms of changing work hours/commute methods/etc., those who can need to “do their part.”
Zimbabwe (photo above) said he was visiting this week to be here for the start of what will be the long-haul change in city transportation patterns.
Then, WSDOT secretary Roger Millar, who quoted the R.E.M. song title “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).” He said he will sleep better knowing that the seismically vulnerable Viaduct is out of service. And he echoed the warning that “stuff will happen”: “We have 60 incidents on the road each day from Marysville to Tumwater.”
He was followed by Metro general manager Rob Gannon, who said his agency is “as ready to go as we possibly can be.”
Then, Gen. Worden, who declared that he thinks “the plan is solid” and that he has faith that people will “find a way” to get through the coming crunch. (Later in Q&A, asked what attributes he brings to the mix, he suggested “a fresh eye” is a big one.)
SDOT’s downtown-mobility director Heather Marx (above), a West Seattle resident, began ebulliently, “You guys, it’s almost here!” referring to the years-in-the-making Viaduct removal. (“Forever” arose again.) Flexibility and communication were her points, not just for her colleagues, but also for people getting around: “We’re relying on you … to be prepared. … You need to have a plan. It’s not too late.” And as she had done at the Wednesday briefing (WSB coverage here), she urged people to “practice patience and kindness” as well as making room for emergency responders.
In Q&A, the mayor was asked who takes the lead if something huge happens. That depends on what happens, she said, while trying to provide reassurance that “you see the leaders here but the same collaboration is happening at the staff level. … none of it will be done in a vacuum.”
OTHER NOTES: From other communications we’ve had today, at the briefing and elsewhere:
-Wednesday’s briefing mentioned that a small section of the Viaduct will be removed immediately as part of the Dearborn ramp-building work. Here’s more on that, including how that work will affect getting around this weekend (beyond the Highway 99 closure).
-WSDOT says the Columbia Street ramp will be first to close in the Viaduct-shutdown sequence Friday night – around 9:45 pm.
-A reader asked if BNSF was altering its SODO train-building that can sometimes back up S. Spokane Street parallel to/under the West Seattle Bridge. We talked with Marx about that post-briefing. The city has talked to the railroad (“we’ve had good conversations”) and its intention is to focus train-building in the off-hours – but no promises, she acknowledged. She said that if there is going to be something major affecting traffic during peak hours, they are hopeful of getting notice from BNSF so they can send out an alert.
-Reminder, the city did secure a commitment that low-bridge openings for maritime traffic will be minimized 7 am-10 am and 2 pm-5 pm weekdays.
-Still have questions about how Metro will operate? This post might help.