West Seattle, Washington
Two Highway 99 notes:
NEXT TUNNEL CLOSURE: Looking ahead beyond whatever the weather brings this week, the next Highway 99 tunnel maintenance closure is set for 10 pm next Friday to 8 am next Saturday (January 17-18) – northbound only this time.
ONE YEAR AGO TODAY: January 12, 2019, was the first day without the Alaskan Way Viaduct. As we noted very early that day, the last vehicles were cleared just after midnight.
(WSDOT photo, January 12, 2019)
“Realign 99” ensued; the tunnel opened late the night of February 3rd, a day and a hal after a gala dedication ceremony – and with a snow day looming.
The time-lapse video is from WSDOT, as it announces that the four remaining columns of the Alaskan Way Viaduct are about to be demolished. But if you harbor Viaduct nostalgia, this might be even bigger news:
We received many requests for commemorative pieces of viaduct concrete. At long last we have the answer: Yes, you can have a piece.
Small pieces of concrete are available for free at the Waterfront Space at the corner of Western Avenue and Union Street. Friends of Waterfront Seattle runs the space to showcase plans for Seattle’s rebuilt waterfront. Here’s where and how to obtain a piece of viaduct history:
Friends of Waterfront Seattle
1400 Western Avenue (corner of Western Ave and Union Street)
Public hours: Wednesday – Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.
Looking ahead, construction is underway in the space where the viaduct once stood. The City of Seattle is building the two-way bus lanes on Columbia Street that will provide a connection for transit between Third Avenue and SR 99 south of downtown. South of Marion Street contractor crews are also mobilizing to begin early work on the new Alaskan Way surface street. Learn more about what’s to come by visiting Waterfront Seattle’s website or subscribing to their weekly construction email updates.
Two Highway 99 notes tonight:
(That’s about to change! WSB photo from August)
TUNNEL TOLLING IN 2 WEEKS: Saturday, November 9th, is now just two weeks away, and that’s the day WSDOT plans to start tolling the tunnel, nine months after it opened. Toll rates are here – extra charges if you don’t have a Good To Go! sticker pass and account, as explained here. There’s still time to get the sticker free by going here.
VIADUCT REMAINDERS: If you thought the Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition was complete – not so, explains WSDOT here. [corrected link]
Just in from WSDOT, that video and this update:
Demolition crews made quick work removing the section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct above South Dearborn Street, one of the structure’s last remaining sections. As a result, the intersection of South Dearborn Street and First Avenue South will reopen Wednesday, Sept. 18 by 6 a.m. – much earlier than initially planned. By tomorrow morning First Avenue South will once again have two lanes in each direction and northbound Railroad Way South will also reopen. The video shows the work that took less than a week to complete.
Starting at 4 a.m. tomorrow morning, Alaskan Way will be narrowed to one lane in each direction near Marion Street so demolition teams can take down the one remaining span of viaduct along Seattle’s waterfront.
Later this week, crews will stripe a bus-only lane on northbound SR 99 between South Spokane Street and South Dearborn Street. This lane existed during SR 99 tunnel construction and helps ensure reliable trips for King County Metro buses carrying about 30,000 passengers a day into downtown. The bus lane is scheduled to be in place by Sunday, Sept. 22 but the work is weather dependent. King County Metro’s northbound buses will remain on temporary reroute until start of service on Sunday, Sept. 22.
Just back from a media briefing that was held steps away from that view of the section of Alaskan Way Viaduct that will be demolished starting Thursday. Also discussed: Getting around in south downtown.
That’s Heather Marx, SDOT’s downtown mobility director. She says Alaskan Way will be temporarily opened to two lanes each way for the Dearborn demo period, Thursday through September 21st. You’ll still be able to get off northbound 99 there, but since Dearborn will be closed, you’ll have to take Alaskan – your first opportunity to turn into downtown will be Alaskan to King Street. 1st Avenue will remain open during the demolition but will be narrowed in the Dearborn vicinity to one lane each way.
That’s Bill Bryant of Metro. He reiterated that NB buses will be temporarily rerouted during the Dearborn closure. He and Marx (a West Seattleite who rides the bus) stressed the importance of keeping up on announced bus stop moves. We asked Bryant about early reviews on the new SB reroutes that started Monday; he said the first day looked good (Marx said her 21X ride went well) but it’s only one day, so they’ll be watching closely for the next few weeks.
As for the Viaduct – WSDOT before-and-almost-after photos above – demolition is now 92 percent complete. Teardown is expected to be over by early October, with cleanup continuing the rest of the month.
P.S. – TUNNEL CLOSURES: Also coming up this weekend, both directions of the Highway 99 tunnel will be closed 10 pm Friday to 8 am Saturday; the NB direction will close again 10 pm Saturday, reopening by 8 am Sunday.
If you missed the mentions in Monday’s tunnel-toll-date announcement and Thursday’s bus-reroute announcement … here’s another full-on reminder from WSDOT: The section of Alaskan Way Viaduct still straddling Dearborn – right where downtown-bound vehicles now exit 99 – is two weeks away from demolition:
As crews removed the viaduct along Alaskan Way this spring and summer, two small sections were left standing at South Dearborn Street. WSDOT and our contractor Kiewit left these two sections in place in order to coordinate the timing of their removal with our partner agencies.
With demolition in its home stretch, we are ready to remove the viaduct over South Dearborn Street. On Thursday, Sept. 12, crews will close South Dearborn Street and narrow First Avenue South to two lanes on either side of the intersection to create a safe work zone. South Dearborn Street will be closed for up to ten days while crews remove the viaduct overhead.
We and our partner agencies are very aware of how critical First Avenue South and South Dearborn Street are for bus riders and drivers heading to and from SR 99 and points south and west of downtown. Some King County Metro buses will reroute while South Dearborn Street is closed and our contractor Kiewit will pull their work zone back from Alaskan Way so the street has its full four lanes open during this closure.
This closure will cause unavoidable disruptions to traffic and we ask drivers to make a plan for their trips: consider alternate routes or ways of getting around, including exiting SR 99 at Spokane Street, using transit or taking the King County Water Taxi. Next month will also bring demolition to the section of viaduct around Marion Street and changes for passengers arriving at Colman Dock. This construction is just one component of the #SeattleSqueeze as Seattle updates its transportation infrastructure to match the city’s mobility needs.
The temporary bus-reroute plan for this phase of demolition was included in Thursday’s announcement.
More changes to traffic flow in the south end of downtown as Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition continues. Since that area’s become an increasingly important pathway to/from here, here’s the newest WSDOT update:
The viaduct is shrinking along Seattle’s waterfront and the work zone is changing this week as the contractor Kiewit shifts their work zone. …
Alaskan Way in Pioneer Square: Yesler and King reopen, Jackson closes
Map showing traffic control changes on Alaskan WayCrews are removing the viaduct through Pioneer Square from both ends. See the map at right (click to enlarge). Here are traffic control changes to expect this week:
Today: South King Street reopens at Alaskan Way.
Tomorrow: Yesler Way reopens at Alaskan Way
Tomorrow: South Jackson Street closes at Alaskan Way.
Uniformed police officers will help direct traffic this week at key intersections during the evening commutes.
To reach Colman Dock: Vehicles can still enter the drive-on entrance at South Jackson Street by taking a left or right off Alaskan Way. Entering the holding area by driving straight west on South Jackson Street will be unavailable while viaduct demolition occurs overhead. Please allow extra time to reach your ferry as traffic congestion remains high on Alaskan Way.
People walking and biking: When South Jackson Street closes, your new east-west options between Alaskan Way and Pioneer Square will be South King Street and Yesler Way. South Dearborn Street and Columbia Street also remain open to bicycles and pedestrians.
Railroad Way South: This street will become northbound-only from South Dearborn Street, with northbound vehicles forced to take a right on South King Street. Vehicles can also turn onto southbound Railroad Way South from South King Street, but the southbound lane terminates mid-block at the 505 Western Avenue building parking garage.
That’s a new video made public today by WSDOT, which says demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is now two-thirds complete. The video tells what WSDOT calls the “behind-the-scenes” story as the demolition work moves south to Pioneer Square. The full update on what’s happening next, and where, is here.
Two notes today related to the Highway 99 tunnel:
TOLLS DELAYED: WSDOT confirms what was first reported by citywide media earlier today – that the tunnel tolling, originally expected to start this summer, is now delayed until fall. The state is switching vendors for its tolling system and won’t be ready to go this summer as originally planned.
TRAFFIC ALERT: Last night, we reported that WSDOT said Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition is now at the midway point and moving southward. As part of that, lane closures on surface Alaskan Way just north of the NB 99 pre-tunnel exit might back things up, spokesperson Laura Newborn warns:
At 4 a.m. on Friday, June 14, crews preparing for viaduct demolition will reduce Alaskan Way to one lane in each direction between South King and South Dearborn streets. This lane reduction will last more than a month. Narrowing the roadway is the only way for crews to safely prepare and demolish this section of viaduct. Because this section of Alaskan Way is near the SR 99 northbound off-ramp at South Dearborn, travelers may encounter backups on the northbound off-ramp and, potentially, the northbound mainline entering the tunnel.
We expect the heaviest congestion will occur during peak travel periods, special events and on weekends, when ferry traffic increases and cruise ships are in town. Travelers approaching downtown from the south should plan ahead for longer drive times and consider alternate routes or ways of getting around, including transit and the King County Water Taxi.
That’s a new time-lapse video from WSDOT, which says Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition is halfway done, four months after the Highway 99 tunnel opened:
Demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is now at the halfway mark and crews remain on track to finish the bulk of demolition later this summer. The Seneca street ramp has almost disappeared. Within the next two weeks, WSDOT’s contractor will add a new location to demolition – moving south from King Street toward Pioneer Square.
As always, you can follow demolition news on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program website as well as our demolition tracker.
WSDOT says demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is 30 percent complete, and on schedule. With that news, they published the video above, a new time-lapse of a section of the demolition. Coincidentally, just before that landed in the WSB inbox, we returned from an errand downtown that took us along waterfront Alaskan Way past the demolition zone for the first time, and we have to say, regardless of your feelings about the old double-decker highway, the teardown zone is quite a sight. WSDOT’s Laura Newborn adds this: “In case you are wondering, a portion of the viaduct across from the ferry dock will remain standing until summer to keep the Marion Street pedestrian bridge to-and-from Colman Dock operational. The contractor is currently building a temporary pedestrian bridge along Columbia Street to replace the Marion Street bridge. This summer, the new Columbia Street bridge will connect to a new portion of Colman Dock. After that happens, demolition crews will remove the remaining section of viaduct near Marion Street.”
That ramp you used to take from central downtown onto SB Highway 99? Gone. The new time-lapse video above, from WSDOT, shows the demolition of the Columbia Street ramp. WSDOT made it public while announcing another demolition milestone: Its demolition contractor Kiewit is starting work on the double-decker Viaduct itself, as detailed here. This comes exactly two months after the Viaduct’s closure, and five weeks after the Highway 99 tunnel’s opening.
(Photo from last week, by Jim Spraker)
The next major piece of the puzzle in the viaduct-to-tunnel transition will be in place by tomorrow morning – the new exit ramp from northbound Highway 99 into the south end of downtown will be open by tomorrow morning, as just announced by WSDOT:
The end of the holiday weekend brings the start of a new way for drivers and bus riders to get to downtown Seattle from northbound State Route 99.
The new off-ramp near the sports stadiums will open for drivers in time for the morning commute Tuesday, Feb, 19.
This new exit ramp leads to a new intersection at South Dearborn Street where drivers can choose to head straight to Alaskan Way and the waterfront, or turn right to access First Avenue and downtown or SODO. This video shows what the choices look like:
In addition to being an important link for travelers, engineers and researchers hope this new ramp will provide a link to something else – earthquake-resistant bridges.
This ramp is the first in the world built with flexible metals and bendable concrete designed to sway with a strong earthquake and return to its original shape. Its innovative design has won regional and national recognition.
After the opening of the new off-ramp, some bus routes will be adjusted. Please see King County Metro’s website for additional information.
(We’ll be following up separately with Metro and SDOT about the timeline for that and for other changes such as the end of the temporary 4th Avenue bus ramp/lane from the West Seattle Bridge. *6:56 PM UPDATE* Metro says yes, buses will shift to the new ramp starting Tuesday.)
WSDOT had warned for months that the exit ramp would take another one to two weeks to finish, after the opening of the Highway 99 tunnel; the recent snow added a few days to that timeline. Without this ramp, everyone using NB 99 in the past two weeks from West Seattle or points south has had to do so without being able to exit until north of the tunnel.
Two Highway 99 updates this afternoon:
(Monday afternoon view from construction-zone camera, looking south across new offramp)
REMEMBER THE RAMP? The tunnel’s been open for more than a week now, but the Dearborn/Alaskan Way offramp – to allow people traveling from West Seattle and points south to exit NB Highway 99 before the tunnel – is still under construction. The culprit, as you might expect – the snow. We asked WSDOT’s Laura Newborn today if there’s an update on the offramp’s expected opening: “There’s still weather-dependent work ahead of us. We do believe it will be next week but can’t say yet what day.”
ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT DEMOLITION: This too has been delayed a bit by the snow. WSDOT now says it’ll start later this week, at multiple spots including the Columbia/1st ramp. They’ve also added webcams focused on the Viaduct so you can watch the work.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
After a dramatic 18-year prelude, the Highway 99 tunnel’s Monday debut was upstaged, big time.
Two inches of snow overshadowed two miles of tunnel.
But before the new tunnel becomes old hat, we need to finish telling the tale of its Saturday dedication, and the memories the event unearthed.
We can’t say this enough: When the Highway 99 tunnel opens – hours from now – there will be a transitional week or so during which the exit to NB 99 from the EB West Seattle Bridge is a “tunnel only” exit, because the offramp to downtown, before the tunnel, isn’t done yet. Separate from that, some new ramps/intersections HAVE just opened on both ends of the tunnel, including the one that you will use to get to SB 99 just south of the tunnel. WSDOT has just published this update that we’re reposting in its entirety:
The Feb. 4 opening of the SR 99 tunnel brings big changes to several important intersections at the tunnel’s north and south ends. New intersections can be confusing, so use the renderings below to help familiarize yourself with what you will encounter on the road. You can also preview the intersections via narrated videos.
North end of the tunnel: Harrison Street and Aurora Ave North
New northbound SR 99 on-ramp
New southbound SR 99 off-ramp
Harrison Street open east-west across Aurora Avenue North
The new tunnel dives underground at Harrison Street, several blocks north of where the now-closed Battery Street Tunnel begins. The new intersection of Harrison Street and Aurora Avenue North is where the northbound on-ramp begins, and the southbound off-ramp ends. Harrison Street is now also open east-west across Aurora Avenue North.
Note: Construction begins this month on the inside lanes of Aurora Avenue North between Denny Way and Harrison Street (yellow zone at bottom). Learn more about how the North Surface Streets project is rebuilding Aurora Avenue North.
North end of the tunnel: Republican Street and Dexter Avenue North
New northbound SR 99 off-ramp
The intersection of Republican Street and Dexter Avenue North is where the northbound SR 99 off-ramp ends. New signals will control traffic coming off the highway. From the off-ramp drivers will be able to turn left toward Mercer Street, head straight toward South Lake Union, or turn right to head toward Denny Way. Stay alert for people using the Dexter Avenue bike lanes on both sides of the street.
South end of the tunnel: Alaskan Way, South Dearborn Street, and First Avenue South
New southbound SR 99 on-ramp
New northbound SR 99 off-ramp [NOT YET OPEN]
New east-west street, South Dearborn Street
New primary path between First Avenue South and Alaskan Way
Alaskan Way extended farther south
One of the biggest changes to surface streets is at the tunnel’s south end, just west of CenturyLink field. Alaskan Way no longer ends with a jog under the viaduct onto Railroad Way South. Instead, it continues straight to a new intersection with a new road, South Dearborn Street.
South Dearborn Street is the new east-west connection between Alaskan Way and First Avenue South. This intersection connects SR 99, Alaskan Way and First Avenue. Alaskan Way continues south from this intersection toward East Marginal Way South. Railroad Way South is currently closed from First Avenue South, and when it reopens it will be a local-access-only road.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The northbound SR 99 off-ramp bridge is still under construction and will open one to two weeks after the tunnel opens.
Note: The rendering above does not show the now-closed Alaskan Way Viaduct, which sits in the yellow-highlighted work zone and will be removed section by section over the next six months.
South end of the tunnel: South Royal Brougham Way and First Avenue South
New northbound SR 99 on-ramp
New southbound SR 99 off-ramp
Colorado Avenue South with two-way traffic to South Atlantic Street
Drivers who previously joined SR 99 northbound from Royal Brougham Way will find striking changes to that intersection. Where once there was a ramp to the viaduct, now there are two ramps to the tunnel. This is where southbound drivers in the tunnel will exit to reach SODO, the stadiums, and I-90 and I-5. This is also where drivers coming from I-90 or the stadiums will enter the tunnel for northbound SR 99.
Note: A shared-use path along Colorado Avenue South will be built in a future phase of the project.
South end of the tunnel: South Atlantic Street and Colorado Avenue South
New surface-street connection to Alaskan Way South
Colorado Avenue South with two-way traffic to Royal Brougham Way South
The changes around South Atlantic Street are less drastic but still worth knowing. The Atlantic Street overpass over SR 99 is now a complete connection to Alaskan Way (to the north) and East Marginal Way South (to the south). You can now reach both via South Atlantic Street by taking the ramp labeled below.
Colorado Avenue South (previously called East Frontage Road) is now a two-way street, providing a north and south route between South Atlantic Street and SR 99 on- and off-ramps. A common path from SR 99 southbound to reach I-90 will be to take Colorado Avenue south, then take a left turn onto South Atlantic Street.
Note: At tunnel opening South Atlantic Street does not pass beneath the SR 99 overpass to Alaskan Way South. That connection will open later in winter/spring 2019.
Again, no specific time yet for the actual tunnel opening – but WSDOT has said it’ll be in time for the earliest edge of tomorrow’s morning commute (4 am-ish). We’ll have a separate update when it’s announced, and we also still have one more report in the works from Saturday’s tunnel dedication.
That’s WSDOT drone video of the run/walk that started this day of tunnel/viaduct festivities – with 29,000 participants. We also have three views from inside the tunnel, courtesy of Vy Duong:
Note the signage including the new name of the Mariners’ home (as also seen in above-ground signage we showed in our first report on the dedication ceremony that started just as the run/walk was ending). And here’s Vy’s view as the run/walk reached the tunnel’s south end:
And some of the bicycle officers who were in view at multiple sites throughout the day :
We saw them at the ribboncutting, too, after they escorted runners/walkers out:
Speaking of bicycles – Sunday morning, 12,000 people are registered to ride through the tunnel and on the viaduct, in a sold-out event that is the last component of the celebration weekend before WSDOT goes through final steps to get the tunnel open by early Monday morning.
(Webcam showing north end of Viaduct; refresh for newest image)
3:26 PM: We had planned to head back downtown after coverage earlier of the tunnel dedication, in hopes of covering the Viaduct event. So far we’re hearing of long lines – at least for the Seneca access to the Viaduct itself – and transit delays. So heads up if you’re headed out.
4:36 PM: And if you’re headed back via the Water Taxi – King County now says the schedule has been thrown overboard:
WATER TAXI UPDATE⛴⛴⛴⬇️
For the remainder of the evening, the West Seattle Water Taxi will not be operating on its published Feb. 2 schedule, but instead will be boarding passengers and departing ASAP in an effort to accommodate high volumes of passengers at the Pier 52 dock. pic.twitter.com/7hNqrrikOA
— King County Metro🚏🚎⛴ (@kcmetrobus) February 3, 2019
4:55 PM: Finally back downtown. Just passed the Seneca event entrance. Looks like the line subsided.
5:20 PM: Verified – we are on the Viaduct now via Seneca. No wait, no ticket/pass checking. Not too crowded.
6:40 PM: The event is winding down. We’ve left downtown – note that southbound 1st is extremely sluggish; one lane north of the stadiums was set aside for buses being used as shuttles, though that was starting to empty as we passed through. Tomorrow’s only event is the sold-out morning bike ride; after that, WSDOT has a punch-list of items to go through to get ready for opening the tunnel by early Monday.
FIRST REPORT, 11:12 AM: We are at the south end of the Highway 99 tunnel to cover the 11:30 am dedication/ribboncutting ceremony. Driving on otherwise-closed 99 to access the media-parking zone, we got a look at some of the new signage:
Runners/walkers finishing the 8K are passing by, steps away. Among the West Seattleites waving at us, Deb Greer and Karen Berge of the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network:
Gathering for the ceremony, many who were involved in making the tunnel happen, from politicians to advisory-group members. West Seattleites we’ve already seen include, in the former category, ex-Mayor Greg Nickels (below with wife Sharon Nickels), and in the latter, longtime advisory/stakeholder group members Vlad Oustimovitch and Pete Spalding.
Also seen already, former Gov. Chris Gregoire, who signed the tunnel bill almost 10 years ago. A West Seattleite who stood by at that Seattle Aquarium ceremony, King County Executive Dow Constantine, is one of today’s scheduled speakers. More former mayors sighted as we got ready to publish this – Mike McGinn, longtime tunnel critic, and Ed Murray, who also was there at the 2009 signing.
Again, though the tunnel is being dedicated today as a prelude to an afternoon/evening of events inside it and up on the soon-to-be-demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct, WSDOT doesn’t plan to open it until early Monday morning.
12:36 PM: Minutes ago, the ribbon was cut:
And a photo:
Full coverage later. First – on to the afternoon of viaduct/tunnel celebrations.
Going to the viaduct/tunnel party tomorrow? Wondering what’s going to happen when the tunnel opens Monday? Here are the updates we have so far:
TUNNEL/VIADUCT PARTY: That was Topic A as today’s media briefing convened inside the north entrance to the tunnel. We were late – an hour turned out not to be enough to get from HQ to downtown! – so no video, but lots of info. Here’s the weekend schedule:
*8K fun run/walk that “takes runners through the tunnel, onto the viaduct and back to the Seattle Center via the Battery Street Tunnel,” 7:30-11 am, registration required.
*Tunnel ribbon-cutting, 11:30 am-12:30 pm at South Portal – public access on foot from 1st Ave. S./Royal Brougham
*Tunnel walk, 12:30 pm-6:30 pm from north portal to south portal. Shuttle buses will take you back from south end to north end if you walk the whole way, or you’ll be able to walk up to 900 feet in and turn around. Free tickets required, limited walk-up access but WSDOT says no guarantees.
*Viaduct access including community arts festival, 12:30 pm-6:30 pm, entrances at Battery Street Tunnel and Seneca Street. Free tickets required, limited walk-up access but WSDOT says no guarantees.
(added) *The event website also has info on “hubs” you can access without tickets.
*Tunnel bicycle ride, 8 am, sold out.
HOW TO GET TO SATURDAY’S EVENTS: Transit use is strongly encouraged. Here’s the special this-Saturday-only Water Taxi schedule – no 773/775 shuttle buses, but Metro DOES plan to run the one to and from the free Pier 2 parking lot, which WILL be open. And again, no Water Taxi on Sunday
WHO’S SPEAKING AT SATURDAY’S TUNNEL RIBBONCUTTING: Just in case you’re curious, we got the lineup at today’s briefing. In order:
WSDOT secretary Roger Millar
Muckleshoot Tribe chair Virginia Cross
Suquamish Tribe chair Leonard Forsman
Gov. Jay Inslee
Federal Highway Administration rep Dan Mathis
State Sen. Steve Hobbs
State Rep. Jake Fey
King County Executive Dow Constantine
Port of Seattle Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck
City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw
SO WHAT ABOUT THE TEMPORARY BUS LANE FOR 4TH AVE OFFRAMP? SDOT (whose Heather Marx was at today’s briefing along with Metro’s Terry White, above left, and WSDOT’s Dave Sowers, above right) has reiterated, “The temporary bus-only lane on the Spokane St Viaduct and 4th Ave S will remain in place until the new northbound SR 99 off-ramp to S. Dearborn St opens about one week after the new SR 99 tunnel opens.”
NO NEW ESTIMATE OF HOW SOON THAT LANE WILL OPEN … but remember, for that week or so, if you exit the eastbound bridge for 99, you will HAVE TO use the tunnel because there will be no exit open until its north end. Also a reminder: The tunnel tolls won’t kick in until sometime this summer.
TWO TUNNEL FACTS WE HADN’T HEARD: From WSDOT: “The SR 99 tunnel is the longest road tunnel in the lower 48 states (there is one longer in Alaska) and one of only two singlebored, double-deck tunnels in the world (the other is in Turkey).”
It’s official – the Highway 99 tunnel WILL open in time for Monday morning’s commute. That’s what WSDOT’s project boss Dave Sowers just told us and other media on a conference call. He said that starting Sunday afternoon and continuing into the “wee hours” of Sunday night/early Monday, they will be in the midst of all the ramp work – an “item by item, hour by hour” list of steps – to make sure it’s ready to go in time for the Monday commute, by 4:30-5 am Monday.
But for people traveling NB on 99 from West Seattle and points south, it’s vital to remember that for the first week or more, as noted many times, the exit ramp to downtown via Dearborn Street will NOT be open. Transportation authorities promise they will have signage in place to remind you that exiting to NB 99 from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge will be a “no exit until after the tunnel” (they promise to get us the exact verbiage they’ll be using) exit, until that ramp is open. “Pay attention to the signage,” Sowers urged drivers, especially in that interim time.
Sowers was asked if the possible snow toward weekend’s end could bring a setback. “Unless we had six inches of snow during the Super Bowl” – which is NOT in the forecast so far – he doesn’t expect it. But because rain is expected tonight, he said they’re in something of a “mad dash” to finish some final touches such as striping.
At midday today, WSDOT and SDOT hosted media crews for a short progress-report briefing at the new intersection that will take people from and to Highway 99 just south of the soon-to-open tunnel. As the sign above shows – with the tunnel’s south-portal building as the backdrop (its distinctive yellow stacks are just out of the frame) – it’s the Dearborn intersection.
It’s still expected to open a week or so after the tunnel, which WSDOT’s project boss Dave Sowers says is still likely to open in time for next Monday’s commute, though he expects it’ll be a few more days before they lock in that date. Our raw video of today’s briefing starts shortly before the Q&A section – we arrived toward the end of the statements because they started a bit early and clogged traffic made us late! First person you see is SDOT’s downtown-mobility director Heather Marx:
Besides a progress report, today’s briefing was also meant to remind everyone that it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll get getting around once the tunnel – and then the Dearborn exit ramp – are open. In case you missed it when first released earlier this month, here are two WSDOT videos of note – first, showing how that new exit ramp will work:
Second, how you’ll get to SB 99 to get out of downtown:
As discussed in the Q&A, traffic engineers will also closely watch traffic flow out of the tunnel – ready to adjust signal timing and turning if need be.
(WSB photo, earlier this month)
As promised – the King County Water Taxi is out with its West Seattle schedule for this Saturday (February 2nd), a special one-day-only plan for the big viaduct/tunnel party.
SCHEDULE: The Water Taxi will run every 35-40 minutes Saturday on this schedule:
If it fills up, with people still waiting, they’ll leave immediately and return as soon as they can, but they advise that if you’re trying for a particular time, be there early. All standard fares apply on Saturday.
PARKING: The free Pier 2 lot, which holds about 250 cars, will be open on Saturday. The entrance is at 2424 Harbor Avenue SW, across from the 7-11, and there will be a free shuttle to and from the Water Taxi at Seacrest as has been the case on weekdays. It will open at 5:45 am Saturday and close at 7:45 pm – if you don’t get your car by then, the county warns, it’ll be locked in until Monday morning.
Again, this is for Saturday only – the Water Taxi will not run Sunday (the only event that day is the sold-out bike ride). So what happens when you arrive downtown? The Water Taxi website has advice in this update.
ADDED TUESDAY: Though the Water Taxi will run Saturday, the 773/775 shuttles will not – just the Pier 2-parking-lot-to-dock-and-back shuttle.
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