VIADUCT’S LAST DAYS: Newest information as Friday’s forever closure approaches

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

X marks the spot.

The “X” marks a small section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct that will be demolished almost immediately after the entire structure is closed forever at 10 pm this Friday (January 11th).

WSDOT and other agencies gathered local news media near that spot at midmorning today for the latest briefing looking ahead to the weeks of 99-less-ness while work is done for the viaduct-to-tunnel transition. We recorded it all on video:

No huge headlines at the briefing, but its context was shaped by today’s tougher-than-usual morning commute out of West Seattle, one that hadn’t yet subsided when we headed out for the 10:30 am briefing. The main event factoring into the hours-long backup was a stuck truck blocking one lane of NB 99; that was enough fodder to imagine what things might be like once all of 99 is out of commission for 3 weeks starting Friday night.

SDOT‘s director of downtown mobility Heather Marx (a West Seattleite) urged commuters to be kind and patient with each other. Seattle Police Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak said police will be taking special measures to help tow trucks get though when needed, and that a new auxiliary tow yard has opened “closer to downtown” so that crews involved in clearing incidents won’t be out of service for as long as usual.

Those tow trucks might be busy with other things during #Realign99 – Marx said, “We will tow with alacrity” if people violate the temporary no-parking zones that are planned in various spots. Hirjak reiterated that police will be deployed to keep certain intersections moving, but their goal is more to move people along than to cite them, though ticketing is not “off the table.”

Seattle Fire Deputy Chief Ron Mondragon said SFD will keep close watch on response times, and if they have to take extra measures downtown such as using transit lanes, they will.

Among the many other things that will be watched and adjusted if necessary once the effects of the Highway 99 closure are fully up to (or more like down to) speed next week: Metro bus operations. Post-briefing, we asked Metro’s Bill Bryant the question we continue to hear – will the buses that formerly used The Viaduct be stopping anywhere south of downtown? He says the inbound buses will all stop at either Yesler or James for starters, but that will change if it turns out to be a logjam. (Here again are the Metro routes [PDF], both temporary for #Realign99, then interim, then permanent.)

As for the #Realign99 work itself, WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers said what began when the 99 ramps in the stadium zones were closed is “progressing” well. WSDOT published this time-lapse video of the built-then-buried tunnel approach ramp being unearthed:

That part of the ramp was built in 2013 – the same year tunnel-digging began, after the tunneling machine arrived from Japan.

If all goes well, the tunnel could open as soon as the night of Sunday, February 3rd, WSDOT has said. Remember that if you’re not using the tunnel, 99 won’t be of use for another week or more after it opens, because work will continue to finish the new Dearborn ramp. If you missed it last week, here’s the WSDOT video explaining how getting into downtown via that ramp will work:

Here’s the full transition timeline. (And if you’re looking for information on the February 2-3 goodbye/hello celebration weekend, that’s at 99stepforward.com.)

WHAT’S NEXT: At least one more briefing before the Friday night closure.

64 Replies to "VIADUCT'S LAST DAYS: Newest information as Friday's forever closure approaches"

  • BootyDoo January 9, 2019 (3:40 pm)

    If the city and WSDOT actually cared about people, they would make all transit free during this time. 

    • James Frank Walker January 9, 2019 (5:05 pm)

      Pretty cynical to suggest they don’t care about people.   Maybe it’s time to move somewhere else.

    • Peter January 9, 2019 (7:09 pm)

      The city and WADOT don’t operate any affected transit services, they don’t have any authority to make them free. 

    • Viagloom January 10, 2019 (11:08 am)

      Free busses were suggested by Sawant just two weeks ago. The City has known about this coming for years and just now, have thought to come up with solutions for those being left behind–West and South Seattle. Sawant is just latching on to the headline of the day to promote herself. No free busses are coming to save us. Instead when I wrote to Herbold I was told that the new route to downtown would only take 15 mins more (LOL) and Durkan is telling us to take water taxis ($2.50 each way for the call on demand van + $5.75 each way for the water taxi–even with an Orca card it’s prohibitevly expensive). Your opportunity to vote these folks our is coming. Remember that when you’re standing on a packed bus for an hour or sitting in traffic. 

      • CAM January 10, 2019 (2:14 pm)

        If you are using an ORCA card on the water taxi and the Ride2 app the water taxi fare is decreased by almost a dollar each way and you only pay the difference between the Ride2 fare and the water taxi fare when you board the water taxi. Still more money but not quite as bad as you are saying. 

  • Linda Kaye January 9, 2019 (4:23 pm)

    I agree. Free transit for a month. Plus more buses coming into and out of west seattle. The buses are already super crowded from here. It would ease the ride. They pack in the passengers and all that is left is a big danger of an accident. 

    • Amy January 9, 2019 (6:51 pm)

      Are there actually extra busses and drivers available for 3+ weeks to come into West Seattle? We aren’t the only community impacted by this.

      • Mitch January 10, 2019 (2:04 am)

        I appreciate Ms. Marx urging commuters to be kind and patient with each other, but drivers giving busses may be a bit too much kindness for a bunch of grumpy morning commuters. 

        • Sky King January 10, 2019 (2:09 pm)

          Thank you, Mitch! I appreciate someone who knows the difference between buses and busses! (For the rest of you, just know it’s far less painful to be hit by a buss.) Have a great Thursday, everyone. :-)

  • CAM January 9, 2019 (4:49 pm)

    Thank you! I really appreciate you getting an answer on the bus stops. That will decrease many headaches for me (and a lot of other commuters) for the foreseeable future. 

  • The King January 9, 2019 (4:51 pm)

    According to Metro the operating costs for the time frame would be an estimated $10,000,000. Free is expensive. 

    • Sky King January 9, 2019 (5:55 pm)

      Agreed, and I think $10M is very conservative. Metro had 150M rider trips in 2016. Even if ridership has remained flat, that’s nearly 2.9M trips per week. If we assume *average* trip fare across all buses, Link trains and Metro ST routes is $2.50 (peak bus trip is $2.75), that’s over $7.2M per week, or $21.6M+ for three weeks. That would have to be absorbed by all King County taxpayers, as well, since Metro is not a city agency. Not to mention that free transit for three weeks wouldn’t solve anything!

  • Adam January 9, 2019 (4:51 pm)

    Am I reading the flyer right, that busses that currently use 99 to access downtown will, after the tunnel opens and into the future, use 1st Ave?  Why wouldn’t they use 99 and exit at the new Dearborn exit once it opens? 

    • CAM January 9, 2019 (5:34 pm)

      My interpretation of the information I’ve seen is that the buses which normally use 99 will for the next few weeks exit at 4th Ave when heading inbound. After the Dearborn exit opens they will use 99 and exit at Dearborn and will come into downtown via Cherry to 3rd. The outbound ride seems less clear to me because it suggests that even after Friday the buses will be able to get on to 99 near downtown. After the new ramps open on 99 the bus will take 1st Ave to get to 99. 

      • Adam January 9, 2019 (8:33 pm)

        Thanks CAM.  I hope your interpretation is correct.  

        • Elton January 10, 2019 (11:45 am)

          It sounds like they’re also adding a temporary bus lane on 4th Ave S (https://westseattleblog.com/2019/01/followup-4th-avenue-temporary-bus-lane-installation-planned-saturday/). Anyway, you can see more details in the slide deck (page 19) from the briefing that WSB covered few days ago. I think CAM is mostly correct. Southbound the buses won’t be able to get on 99 in downtown – it’ll be also via Dearborn, apparently. So basically, south on 3rd, turn at Columbia, turn onto 1st, then take the SB 99 ramp near the stadiums. I’m assuming there will be a bus lane on 1st?

          • WSB January 10, 2019 (11:50 am)

            We’ve been on 4th a couple times this week and yes, there’s a bus lane there as well. (We keep hearing about people from the confusion caused by the early striping of the bus lanes, but at least that’s about to be a moot point.)

  • Sky King January 9, 2019 (4:54 pm)

    Our major transit options are not operated by the city or by WSDOT and neither entity has the ability to make them “free.” In fact, it may not even be legal for Metro or Sound Transit to suspend fare collection. Even if they did, how would that have any impact on this situation? The cost of public transit is low enough already (subsidized for all riders) that it is not a significant impediment to getting people out of SOVs. Nearly all of those who can afford the much higher costs of fuel, maintenance and parking will be able to afford the smaller, nominal cost of riding public transit during this period, provided they can navigate schedule, route and other obstacles. What would be solved by county-wide taxpayers providing free public transit for three weeks?

    • The King January 9, 2019 (7:59 pm)

      It feels like one of their pre-trial social engineering experiments to see how many people they can entice to get on a bus by calling it free. Metro covers 27% of their operating costs through the farebox and orca cards. The other 73% is subsidized, to break even with the same amount of passengers they would have to charge $4.76 a trip vs the $2.75 they do now. The WS Ferry system is currently covering 70-80% of their operating costs. King County Metro is as close to “free” as it gets right now. 

  • Kathy January 9, 2019 (4:56 pm)

    If you need to commute to Downtown Seattle or South Lake Union during “viadoom”, consider biking. There will be another guided ride to those areas sponsored by West Seattle Bike Connections/Cascade Bicycle Club at 9:15 am on Sunday, January 13th:  Survive Realign99 Version 2

    • Lauri January 10, 2019 (3:28 pm)

      Kathy, as a novice cyclist who is considering riding my bike to Queen Anne from West Seattle, I really appreciated the video of (most of) the last guided ride!  Thank you!Would anyone on this upcoming ride – which I won’t be in town for – be willing to record the ENTIRE route from WS and back on a GoPro or other video camera?  Riding right beside semi trucks gives me pause (having read about experienced cyclists who were injured or killed on that route), but I feel like my confidence level would be a lot higher if I could see exactly where to turn, etc.I know it’s a high-maintenance request but it can’t hurt to ask, and maybe it would help someone else too!  Thank you!

  • Bus rider, sometimes January 9, 2019 (5:42 pm)

    So, no word on what will be done to address the closure further south, where NB 99 vehicles have to get off of 99, aka, bus route 113?

    • WSB January 9, 2019 (7:54 pm)

      I am asking that one tomorrow when the briefing is actually in the SDOT traffic ops center.

  • 935 January 9, 2019 (5:49 pm)

    01/09 – 17:47Good evening fellow captives of this soon to be hell.Please answer me this… I work in the trades. I work in all areas of this city – and beyond. Currently I have 4 projects running, from 425, to (almost) 360. I have air compressors, table saws, hand saws, various tools, extremely thin profit margins and too much windshield time. Windshield time doesn’t pay  by the way… What would you have me and my trades brethren do? do you REALLY want to see me on an overcrowded bus with my 80lb 5′ tall chop saw? Do you really think I’d even be let on?Transit does nothing for us – aside from moving a few cars out of the way. ‘Don’t drive’ they say. ‘Work from home’ they say. Pay my bills I say.Well, I think an entire population of workers us being talked around and forgotten about.See you in carmegeddon soon

    • Felix Grounds January 9, 2019 (9:00 pm)

      935, I am also a tradesman….What do you suggest?We’re just going to have to deal, no way around it.Goid Luck.

      • Don Brubeck January 10, 2019 (10:54 am)

        935 and Felix Grounds,   Feeling for you and all others who really need to drive.  The only way to solve that problem is for the people who do actually have other options  to take another option.  Carpool, take transit, walk, bike, work from home, as much as possible. It will take people caring about their community to keep us all moving, including the buses and those who need to drive and carry tools or deliver goods.

    • herongrrrl January 9, 2019 (11:20 pm)

      I’m a contract teacher, similar deal. Hours and routes don’t work with any public transit options, and I have to carry a lot of equipment with me to do the workshops I teach. I’m just praying that everyone who DOES have the option not to drive takes it, and padding my travel times generously–which means, yes, lots of unpaid windshield time, and less time at home with my family while this is going on. My husband works maritime and there’s another job where you don’t get to work from home, pick your hours or have lots of public transit options. Most of the suggestions I’ve seen for how to ease the pain of this upcoming mess don’t work for a LOT of people. Gods help us all.

      • Jenny January 10, 2019 (10:46 am)

        This is why I am not even going to attempt my commute into SLU from WS and will work from home the whole time. I really feel for everyone who doesn’t have that option, this is going to be very unpleasant to put it mildly.

  • Hoku January 9, 2019 (6:49 pm)

    WSB: thank you for continuing to ask the question about METRO inbound routes stopping south of Seneca!

    • WSB January 9, 2019 (7:51 pm)

      The Yesler/James stop is it for now. Tomorrow’s briefing is more SDOT-focused but Metro’s GM is part of it too so we’re still up for question suggestions. New SDOT director and new ‘mobility czar’ are on the lineup too.

      • songstorm January 10, 2019 (5:45 am)

        I feel like a bit of a dunce but does the Yesler/James stop mean the C will be stopping in front of the courthouse (where the 116/118/119 stop now) or at the stop just prior to that where the RR D line stops?  I usually take the 116 but after yesterday’s commute, I wonder if the C might not be a better option for me as it would have the benefit of the bus lanes from the WS Bridge all the way up to the end of 4th.  It’s unfortunate they aren’t able to add a dedicated transit lane on 1st.  

        • CAM January 10, 2019 (9:29 am)

          I don’t know but I’m assuming that the C will stop at the rapid ride stop and the 21X will stop at James where the regular 21 stops. I’m not sure how that will work for the other commute times only express buses (55/56/57). I’m guessing they’ll try to split them up between those two stops. 

  • bolo January 9, 2019 (8:09 pm)

    Anybody else liked that the SDOT Director of Mobility “…urged commuters to be kind and patient with each other?”

    If we all could remember that while out and about our world would be a much better place for the next few (3?) weeks.

    I will give it a try. Anyone else?

  • Abyk January 9, 2019 (8:22 pm)

    Did that one guy say “when the tunnel opens in 3-5 weeks”? I mean my fingers were crossed that it would actually be done in 3 weeks but I didn’t think they were already assuming it could be 5 weeks. I can only work from home so long. I look forward to testing the bus route tomorrow though. Best to be as prepared as possible! $2.75 cash each way if you don’t have an orca card. 

    • WSB January 9, 2019 (8:24 pm)

      Whatever numbers they cite, the intent is to keep expectations low, generally. They’re hoping for three weeks. Snow, for example, could cause a delay.

    • ltfd January 9, 2019 (9:40 pm)

      The lead engineer (WSDOT) told me that Feb. 4 is the guaranteed opening date. That was yesterday, during a Fire Department training event.

  • Eddo38 January 9, 2019 (8:59 pm)

    Here’s my rub on the lamp and 1st wish- wish that lanes had been designated by purpose of transit. Color coded the freaking concrete. If you are transporting cargo, lane yellow, people, lane green, yourself, lane red. EMS, any shoulder or lane painted White. Thermal Toll individual drivers with GVW under 5 tons.  Btw- cut all subsides for transit. Including the ferry system. People need to pay their own way. Dump the savings into advanced transit systems like those similar to HyperLoop. I’ve already accepted that my generation is screwed when it comes to the dream of a more efficient transportation system. So can we build a better one for the generations to come?  Our ancestors left us with railways and freeways and runways! So we just use them and don’t improve them!? I’d really like to debate this concept in an open forum. It’s an idea, and I’m sure other people’s ideas would make it better. Let’s do this!!!

  • SENSET 27 January 10, 2019 (12:09 am)

    Does Marx have to say, “We will tow with alacrity.”  I guess I will have time while stuck in traffic to look that word up…

    • Eddo29 January 10, 2019 (12:51 am)

      Pretty much a a Boy Scouts motto in a word :)

  • Abyk January 10, 2019 (6:21 am)

    It may have been mentioned previously but do we know about any conworking spaces in west Seattle (with special offers maybe?) or is everyone flooding coffee shops?

  • Bus rider January 10, 2019 (7:09 am)

    For NB buses into downtown from WS, they need a southern stop after it gets off 99. It will be a traffic jam on 3rd and later on 1st. At least one before cherry street.

  • 935 January 10, 2019 (8:09 am)

    1/10 – 8:04Just looked up “alacrity”….courtesy of dictionary.com it means “brisk and cheerful readiness”I see nothing about the next 3 weeks indicating “brisk and cheerful” smdh.Felix Grounds and herongrrrrl – see you on the clogged roads. may your 2019 be successful.

  • Mary January 10, 2019 (8:44 am)

    My wish would be for transit to stop near the SODO light rail station so that those heading beyond downtown could get off the streets as soon as possible. I’m also puzzled as to why West Seattle busses aren’t traveling on the bus-only roadway.  To all the stressed and stuck-in-their-cars commuters, please keep an eye out for cyclists and continue to give them some space on the road! (And fellow cyclists, be extra vigilant!)

    • newnative January 10, 2019 (9:00 am)

      The 50 stops at that SoDo station and a few spots along 1st Ave S. 

    • Buddy January 10, 2019 (9:23 am)

      I agree… a bus to the SODO light rail stop makes a ton of sense (and not just during the shutdown)

      • CAM January 10, 2019 (9:46 am)

        The 50 does stop at the SODO light rail but it travels a long ways down 1st before turning around and going backwards to get to the light rail. It would be a better option to take either the 50 or 21 and get off at Lander on 1st and walk east on Lander to the light rail. It’s a bit of a walk but will almost assuredly be faster than sitting in the parking lot on 1st. 

    • BlairJ January 10, 2019 (11:16 am)

      Route 125 will use the SODO Busway.  https://metro.kingcounty.gov/alerts/pdf/18-awv-5week-closure-rt125-jan11-approx-feb18.pdf

      • CAM January 10, 2019 (2:17 pm)

        That’s great to know! I think you can transfer from the 50 to the 125 which would probably be your fastest/closest/most direct route to the light rail. I might be wrong about that transfer though. I’ve only taken the 50 a handful of times. 

        • Linda W January 11, 2019 (10:59 pm)

          Cam – the 125 (and quite a few other West Seattle buses) will be using the SODO busway during the 99 realignment, but they will not make any stops between Spokane Street and Cherry Street. They will drive right by the SODO Light Rail station, but will not stop :(  “All regular stops” means the stops that the buses made when using the viaduct, not all of the stops that are along the new temporary route. 

          • CAM January 12, 2019 (12:38 am)

            Eww. That stinks. Back to thinking that the fastest way to the SODO light rail stop is to take the 50 or 21 and get off at Lander and 1st and walk the rest of the way. But for those of us headed downtown, taking the busway will be significantly faster than any other direct route. 

  • Kona January 10, 2019 (9:14 am)

    The City has had years to plan for this construction issue. And now less than a few days to go they are in a panic mode which does not help those of us stuck with the poor design, lack of options or help. Biking is great but not in 40 degrees in the rain. It is unrealistic to think everyone can stay home.  Metro planning for 1 hour delays, that is all you have to offer after several years of review. It is only 3 weeks, we will survive, but what a bunch of incompetent leaders at the helm.

    • Jenny January 10, 2019 (10:48 am)

      What makes you think they haven’t been planning for years…?

    • Jon Wright January 10, 2019 (12:57 pm)

      What are you thinking that “they” should have done but didn’t?

  • Chivahn Wilkens January 10, 2019 (9:43 am)

    Wait, what section is coming down right after it closes? I was planning on taking Alaskan Way from Queen Anne to SoDo to get to work in West Seattle during the closure, and there’s that little blip at the end of that goes under the viaduct to pop up to First

  • Kathleen January 10, 2019 (10:05 am)

    Folks:  Can someone tell me where water taxi  shuttle stops at or near California/ Admiral– headed to the water taxi?  I understand it is near there, but which side of the street and is there a sign noting the stop?  Thank you for any information you have!

  • Christine January 10, 2019 (11:49 am)

    1. I agree generally that it is highly privileged to assert that everyone work from home or take the bus or bike. I’m thinking, ability, or general restrictions, or inability to work from home due to a physical and non-digital job (remember those?). Anyway, ending rant on that. 2. Through all this data on all the different sites, I am unable to find out whether the West Seattle Bridge will be closed?? Why is there not a very clear map of both West Seattle and the whole of Seattle to make this point very clear. All I found was this https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/Media/Default/-NewDocuments/Realign99/2018_1128_ClosureSequence.pdfThank you for your kind and thoughtful responses!

    • WSB January 10, 2019 (12:20 pm)

      No, the West Seattle Bridge will not be closed. Like every other Viaduct closure – the exit ramp to 99 will be closed, and when the tunnel is open, it will reopen.

  • WSB January 10, 2019 (1:24 pm)

    Anyone with remaining Metro questions, just got this link via Twitter. Might help.
    https://kingcountymetro.blog/2019/01/09/viaductclosure/

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