‘It’s almost here!’ Here’s what happened at city-led Viadoom Eve briefing downtown

(WSB photos/video by Patrick Sand)

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.

22 Replies to "'It's almost here!' Here's what happened at city-led Viadoom Eve briefing downtown"

  • Flexible citizen January 10, 2019 (5:19 pm)

    I’m fortunate to have a job and employer that allows telecommuting, so I’ll be working from home for the next few weeks. Looking forward to exploring mid-week lunch options right here in West Seattle! Any suggestions?Also, my cats are looking forward to sitting on my keyboard…

    • NomNom January 10, 2019 (6:49 pm)

      If you’re free during the lunch hours, check out South Seattle College’s fine dining restaurant. It’s a great deal and quite delicious!(Good luck with the lap kitties.) 

    • Karen January 10, 2019 (7:02 pm)

      Elliott Bay Brewing right in the Junction is our go-to.   Great beer, burgers, and friendly folks.   

    • AlkiResident January 10, 2019 (7:29 pm)

      Husky Deli! You have to try their sandwiches and other lunch options! 

    • Mike January 10, 2019 (8:18 pm)

      The Swinery, Buddha Ruksa, Oh’s Sandwiches

    • AMD January 10, 2019 (8:37 pm)

      Head down to beautiful White Center!  Young’s Restaurant, Noble Barton, Drunky’s Two-shoe BBQ, Proletariat Pizza, Zippy’s Burgers, Pho White Center, La Fondita, you name it, they’ve got it!  And it’s delicious!

    • I heart falafel January 10, 2019 (10:05 pm)

      Falafel Salam! Falafel salad, purple style.  And don’t forget the halvah mousse, oh my goodness.

    • Gina January 11, 2019 (7:06 am)

      Oh’s Sandwiches for Bahn Mi!

  • Jissy January 10, 2019 (7:33 pm)

    Flex:  do yourself a favor and go to Kamei in West Seattle.  If you happen to want to venture south, La Fundita taco truck (kitty-corner from McClendon’s on 15th) is amazing as is Greenbridge Cafe.  

  • West Seattle Hipster January 10, 2019 (7:53 pm)

    If you prefer convenient and good food, the Jack in the Box on Admiral is a good option, as well as the new Dominoes on California.  I wish I had the option of telecommunicating.

  • Calires January 10, 2019 (7:55 pm)

    This all has a feel of “cross our fingers and close our eyes and hope for the best!”  I’m so grateful that I work from home.  Nothing that I’ve read from the City gives me any confidence that they are prepared for this.

  • David January 10, 2019 (8:19 pm)

    It was the night before viadoom and all through the land
    The news folk were starting their grand coverage plan
    The assignments were posted the reporters shouted with glee
    The fate of the city in the hands of WSDOT
    I locked the door and hid under the bed
    For three weeks the city will be full of dread
    On KING5 On KIRO On KOMO the same
    The media in a frenzy I hope there’s no rain
    The graphics are made the experts on hand
    To help us all through this change to our land
    Viadoom Viadoom Viadoom it came
    Our commute from now on will not be the same

    • AJP January 10, 2019 (8:59 pm)

      Unless you ride a bike, then it won’t be much different.

    • Nancy January 10, 2019 (11:27 pm)

      Thank you for bringing some levity, David!  Love your poem :)

  • Out for a walk. January 10, 2019 (8:46 pm)

    Although I have rearranged my “must do”meetings in downtown plus one in  Mount  Vernon during the next 3 weeks, I still must travel downtown at least twice in the next three  weeks.  I am anticipating heavy traffic. Working from home. Trying to do my part to help ease congestion. 

  • Chad N January 11, 2019 (10:54 am)

    Metro is projecting a 10 minute
    increase in travel time for viaduct-rerouted buses, which should cause
    major delays and unreliability in departure times. This typically
    happens during viaduct shutdowns and snow day reroutes. However, I did
    see it published that Metro will have 20 buses on standby, ready to run
    as extra trips in case headways get too long.
    I plan to explore a few off-the-wall ways to commute out of West Seattle while avoid the viaduct reroute mess:
    – Ride2 van to the West Seattle Water Taxi
    – Route 60 the long way around via South Park and Beacon Hill
    – Route 128 south to TIBS, then Light Rail back north
    All of these will be slower than a viaduct bus, unless the reroutes
    are extremely congested and unreliable. But I plan to try them out just
    to see.

  • Like a snow day January 11, 2019 (12:23 pm)

    Love the poem David.  I believe it will be similar to the preparedness level of the city when there is a heavy snowfall.  Some people stay at home; some people are blithely unaware that anything could be different; savvy commuters find a way one day that doesn’t work the next day.  Everyone complains.

  • WS Voice January 11, 2019 (1:34 pm)

    Want to know why the City Council continues to screw over West Seattle and South King County on a regular basis? Because of people like this who make light of people who PAY for services from the City do NOT get it! Just above this article, there was an alert from this morning where the first Express 21 Bus didn’t leave Westwood. And who in their right mind would believe that the bus delays out of West Seattle will only be 10 minutes behind schedule?!? Where is there going to be more parking for people to get to the “extended” water taxi runs that terminate at 7 pm each night – because everyone goes home from downtown before 7 pm, right? Those of you who are going to use other routes – do you really think that no one else is thinking about the same thing? That people coming from the south won’t try to use those same routes?!? It isn’t just West Seattlites that need to use the roads that SDOT is destroying – but thousands and thousands of people from the south! The reason West Seattle keeps getting screwed over by the City Council and the mayor – because they DO NOT DEAL WITH REALITY, SPEAK UP AND DEMAND CHANGE! 

    • WSB January 11, 2019 (1:45 pm)

      Just so people are clear, the buses and Water Taxi are not city services. As for parking, do you mean in addition to the parking on Harbor set aside with overnight restrictions (120 spaces – we published a reminder yesterday) and the added lot at Pier 2 (250 cars, with a free shuttle to the dock)? Detailed here:

  • they January 11, 2019 (4:06 pm)

    With the 99 closer getting out of WS in the morning will def be a bear. But I noticed last week they turned one of the three west bound lanes starting at first ave ramp to Bus Only. This will be a major problem, with all the Can haulers coming up from Harbor Island many of them would use that lane to get to fouth ave but now they will have to merge into one of the only two lanes headed west or to the freeway. Not good…    

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