West Seattle, Washington
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.
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:
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.
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.
This is it. Barring some surprise, this will be the third and final week of Highway 99-less-ness, post-Alaskan Way Viaduct closure. A few things to know going in:
REMEMBER THE RAMP: The new Dearborn St. offramp that will take you into downtown from NB 99 before the tunnel entrance is still expected to take a week or so extra to open. So unless there’s a dramatic shortening of that estimate soon, non-tunnel users are really more like halfway through this phase of the squeeze. The tunnel is still expected to open in time for the Monday, February 4, morning commute.
ONE LIGHT(ER) DAY THIS WEEK: Wednesday (January 30th), no classes for Seattle Public Schools (“day between semesters”). Also of note, the Vashon Island School District marks that day Monday; Highline Public Schools, immediately south of here, has no classes Monday for grades 7-12.
CELEBRATION THIS WEEKEND: If you missed our progress-report roundup on Friday and are planning to go to this weekend’s goodbye-viaduct-hello-tunnel celebration, check it out here. The celebration website shows free tickets sold out for all Saturday times, but WSDOT said on Friday’s conference call that there would be some room for walk-ups. The West Seattle Water Taxi will run Saturday (not Sunday – special schedule expected soon) and you’re advised to take sea or land transit to get to the viaduct/tunnel event – “there’s no parking” in the area, you’re warned.
SPEAKING OF THE WATER TAXI: If you’re thinking long term, remember that its two-vessel schedule is scheduled to continue until the 7-days-a-week season starts at the end of March. Not the extra parking, though.
TRAFFIC COVERAGE: We’re back at it at 5:30 am.
“One more week to go!” That was the theme of today’s media-briefing conference call, with the focus starting to shift one week ahead to the tunnel/viaduct celebration. But first:
CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS: Dave Sowers says WSDOT is doing two concrete pours today – the biggest is for the south embankment to the Dearborn offramp, the last major pour for roadway surfaces in #Realign99. They had hoped to finish the “dip repair” south of the tunnel yesterday but wet weather kept them from finishing that; they’ll do it Tuesday instead. North portal electrical work, signage, and “loop ramps” continue, along with “commissioning work” on both ends. Striping work is continuing on the main line, too. We asked when they’ll be able to estimate how long past the tunnel opening it’ll take to open the Dearborn exit ramp; he says there’s still a lot of work to do and they’re still on track for the “extra week to 10 days” but might have a better estimate by midweek.
WATER TAXI FOR SATURDAY 2/2 ONLY: Jeff Switzer from Metro clarified that the West Seattle Water Taxi will run from West Seattle on the Saturday of tunnel/viaduct celebration day only – the day with the biggest events – and said that day’s schedule will be available soon. The WS Water Taxi is still running triple the usual ridership, 18,844 riders through Thursday (Vashon is up 14 percent). One bus note: “Today was a reminder we’re not quite out of the woods yet” – because of train delays they’re looking at changing the paths for some south-end routes such as 113. So far “standby buses” have carried 33,572 riders, he said.
BACK TO THE CELEBRATION WEEKEND: Steve Peer from WSDOT noted that the 520 bridge party had 50,000 guests and the tunnel/viaduct weekend is trending for twice that. The Sunday 2/3 bicycle ride (fee) is sold out with 12,000 registered; the Saturday fun run (fee) has 23,000 registered; 66,000 free tickets already have been claimed for Saturday’s viaduct/tunnel access. WSDOT has published an update here with “what you should know before you come.” One big thing – take public transportation! We asked Peer a reader question about difficulty finding a remaining free-event slot to sign up for; he said there will be SOME room for walk-ups. Go to 99stepforward.com for more on the Feb. 2-3 events.
If you’re thinking of bicycling tomorrow – you can get support and inspiration via the “Winter Pop-Up Bike Everywhere Day” station under the bridge. West Seattle Bike Connections and Cascade Bicycle Club will be there 6:30 to 9 am. They’re promising free snacks and giveaways for everybody who stops. Among those planning to ride: West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Lorena González. Assuming all continues to go well, tomorrow marks one week to go in the three-week viaduct-to-tunnel transition.
“If 90,000 drivers decide to get back in their cars, there’s no question that things will get worse quickly – don’t do it!” So said WSDOT’s Laura Newborn toward the end of today’s multi-agency media conference call, something WSDOT has organized most weekdays since the Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown, and other participants echoed that: Keep those alternative commuting practices going if and when you can!
Meantime, toplines from the call:
(Framegrab from WSDOT construction cam)
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: WSDOT’s AWV Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers said they’re still on track to open the tunnel February 4th, right after the February 2-3 celebration weekend, with the NB 99 non-tunnel traffic exit ramp opening a week to 10 days after that. There’s a big concrete pour today, for “load distribution,” as they continue working on the ramps in the south portal area; it’s the groundwork for a future pour, “several hundred cubic yards of concrete.” So far the weather hasn’t really been a problem – absent truly heavy rain, or snow, they’re working through it. The next weather-dependent work is asphalt and striping, likely to happen this Friday, when drier weather is expected.
TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT: Though, as commenters on WSB and elsewhere observed, it felt worse than last week, WSDOT and SDOT reps on the call thought it wasn’t that different – WSDOT traffic engineer Morgan Balogh said “the peak started early and lasted longer,” and observed that people coming into Seattle from points south (via I-5, for example) had an added 15 minutes or so of travel time. SDOT’s Traffic Operations Center supervisor Tim McCall noted the West Seattle Bridge and East Marginal Way were key slowdown spots. As for the truck traffic that contributed to the latter …
PORT TRAFFIC: Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw said Terminal 18 on the east side of Harbor Island was the main contributor. They have more truck traffic this week because of more vessel calls starting last weekend … T-18 was so backed up that trucks couldn’t even get off the island, he said. And, “you can expect heavier traffic for the rest of the week.”
BUSES: They don’t have passenger counts yet, said Metro’s Jeff Switzer, noting that not all buses have counters. He was able to say that standby buses made 570 trips January 12th-19th, carrying nearly 20,000 riders. (We might hear more about the Metro overview tomorrow afternoon, when King County Executive Dow Constantine is leading a media briefing.) … We asked about bus-lane enforcement plans on the bridge besides the lane to 4th; SDOT is checking with SPD on that. They also are looking into the Avalon Way snarl. They altered the 1st and 4th Avenue S. signal timing today to help with traffic including buses.
WATER TAXI: No numbers for today yet. Last week Monday-Friday saw 11,456 passengers, said Switzer, compared to 3,490 in the comparable period last year. (2:45 PM UPDATE: 938 Water Taxi passengers this morning, down from 1,200 last Tuesday but still way up from a year ago, when 367 used it. Also up: The free parking at Pier 2 – which has a free shuttle to the dock – 71 cars today, vs. 53 last Tuesday. Still lots of room.)
P.S. We’re told the post-Viaduct situation is on the agenda at Thursday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, with County Executive Constantine the tentatively scheduled guest, 6:30 pm Thursday (January 24th) at Neighborhood House High Point, 6400 Sylvan Way.
Our Instagram video shows where we were this morning atop the ramp you will take into downtown from northbound Highway 99 if you’re not heading into the tunnel. WSDOT invited news media to visit the work zone this morning for a one-week update on how it’s going.
That’s a look southward onto the under-construction Dearborn Street onramp. When you are traveling on it, northbound, here’s what you’ll see:
When you get to the end of the ramp, you’ll either continue north onto Alaskan Way, or turn right to get to 1st Avenue South. Part of the ramp was built by a different contractor a year ago, but it couldn’t be completed until now. It was built with “geofoam” that rests more lightly on the area’s compression-susceptible soil:
WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers gave the progress report – here’s his three-minute explanation of the south-end work:
Sowers says they’re still on track to open the tunnel February 4th – right after the February 2nd/3rd goodbye-viaduct-hello-tunnel celebration – and this ramp a week or so later. (You can check out the construction-zone webcams here.)
From today’s daily media conference call with transportation-agency reps:
THE TRAIN DEBACLE: SDOT’s rep on the call, Matt Beaulieu, says they’re still sorting out what exactly factored into this morning’s BNSF blockage on lower Spokane Street (tracked in our morning traffic coverage). He and Metro rep Jeff Switzer acknowledged that the agencies were not given a heads-up by BNSF that the blockage was about to happen – their first word, Beaulieu said, was from police on the ground, who helped divert traffic away from the blocked section of lower Spokane as best they could. They’re “still working on the relationship,” he said, saying they “did make a connection today” and are in “a dialogue.” We had asked SDOT’s Heather Marx about BNSF coordination during last week’s pre-Viaduct-closure City Hall briefing, and she had said that, unlike the limited low-bridge openings deal with the U.S. Coast Guard, they had no deal with BNSF.
METRO AND WATER TAXI: Switzer noted the delays caused by the train situation, and otherwise described delays systemwide as ranging between 10 and 35 mites this morning. Overall, more riders are catching buses earlier. They’re also seeing increased call volumes at Metro’s call center, so if you call with a question and hear what might be a long wait time, there’s an option to request a callback rather than waiting on hold.
The Water Taxi had another triple-last-year day on Tuesday, with 2,520 riders overall, but still plenty of capacity, both on the boats and in the temporary Pier 2 free parking.
CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS: WSDOT‘s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator David Sowers said the on- and off-ramp areas at Royal Brougham have been “completely excavated,” and that the offramp to Dearborn – which isn’t projected to be ready to open until at least a week after the tunnel does – “continues to progress very well” too. Today they’re paving the Dearborn connection to 1st Avenue, where part of the south end of the elevated Viaduct was demolished last weekend; striping work was on today’s agenda too. The dry weather has been “very helpful” and they’ve completed most of the needs-to-be-done-in-dry-weather work – but if the rain that’s expected tomorrow and beyond isn’t a major deluge, the work “will not be affected.” Sowers also invited everyone to keep checking out the construction cams.
YES, THAT WAS A CAR ON THE VIADUCT … but not an unauthorized car, explained WSDOT’s Laura Newborn – it was a security vehicle. Please stay off the Viaduct until the planned February 2-3 celebration, WSDOT reiterates.
COMMUTE TRENDS OVERALL: Today, around the region, saw trends similar to Monday and Tuesday – people traveling earlier, and higher travel times than usual in the earlier hours as a result. Tomorrow’s expected rain could affect things dramatically. But otherwise, keep up the good work, all stressed – “people are doing a little bit of everything” and that’s what’s really helped, some buses, some light rail, some Water Taxi, some time-shifting, some working from home, it’s all adding up, and particularly if you can keep doing things differently, you’re making it a little less hellish for those who absolutely can’t.
5:30 AM: Good morning! No incidents to report so far on this third post-Viaduct weekday morning.
5:39 AM: Someone just texted (we’re at 206-293-6302) to report a helicopter over/near east West Seattle. Flight tracker and radio communication verify it’s just the TV helicopter (the one shared by 4/5) monitoring traffic again, and it’s now headed away, northward. …Noted a few minutes later while monitoring TV, 7’s helicopter (which doesn’t show on trackers) is still here.
5:47 AM: Weather, by the way, still dry. First possibility of any rain is this afternoon, more likely it’ll hold off until tonight.
5:50 AM: We’re tweeting bridge snapshots this morning, since the live cams don’t archive. Getting busy!
6:25 AM: Commenter J reports 4th Ave. exit bus ramp has lots of violators, no police monitors this morning. Meanwhile, we’re headed to the Water Taxi dock shortly to see how that’s going. And here’s the latest bridge snapshot for the record. Even busier.
6:42 AM: After we mentioned the 4th Ave. ramp situation on Twitter, Nichole tweeted back that she saw police getting into position nearby. … For the first time this week, we’re hearing about a train delay on the surface under the bridge. We asked SDOT about this last week – bottom line, they say BNSF didn’t make any commitments to changing policies during Viaductlessness.
6:54 AM: West Seattle Water Taxi dock seems quieter this morning, according to our reporter, who’s just arrived, his third morning there. 100 on most-recent run. Earlier #’s not available yet. (Water Taxi schedule, shuttle schedule, other info all here!)
7:07 AM: Just under 100 on most-recent Water Taxi departure. Meantime, bike commuting remains up; West Seattle-residing Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom reports via Twitter that the counter on the bridge shows 137 so far this morning, and that the bridge trail has been de-iced “but nearby asphalt still frosty.”
7:16 AM: Here’s the surface-Spokane train-related jam (we took a screengrab of a nearby camera that’s one of those featured on our full traffic-cams page):
7:28 AM: Direct link to “live” camera here. We’re watching it to see when the train is finally clear – but that hasn’t happened yet. … Related alert for Route 50:
Transit Alert – Route 50 is currently rerouted off of SODO Busway between S Holgate St and S Spokane St, due to a blockage.
— King County Metro🚏🚎⚓️ (@kcmetrobus) January 16, 2019
A friend tweeted blockage has been 30 minutes and pedestrians jumping up and over between train cars.
— Scott Amick (@ScottA_SEA) January 16, 2019
7:39 AM: Commenter Moon Kitten advises, “You can get around the train hold up if you go up E Marginal and cross over to 1st Ave on Hanford! I was stuck as well and went up E Marginal and crossed over to 1st Ave… then back down S on 1st.”
7:45 AM: Train finally cleared in the last few minutes:
(At 7:40 am, it was still there – 7:43 am as per timestamped image, gone.)
7:55 AM: In the meantime, per the Twitter log, the “low bridge” was just open for 17 minutes. Not a good morning for surface (non-high bridge) traffic overall. The openings 7-10 am were supposed to be limited to the largest vessels, so we’re going to check what just passed. (Update: Can’t tell from MarineTraffic.com.)
8:01 AM: Sunrise beauty shot from our Water Taxi dock crew, featuring the MV Doc Maynard:
8:12 AM: The train stop has been the morning’s biggest headline in the area. In the big picture regionally, WSDOT reports “NB I-5 backup into SEA longer than normal.”
8:16 AM: Newest numbers from our Water Taxi watcher: 74 at 7:50 am, 156 at 8:05 am.
8:19 AM: Just dispatched, police to a crash reported at Delridge/Findlay. Cars in center lane, per scanner, no serious injuries.
8:38 AM: Trouble at the east end of the Roxbury corridor – SFD dispatch to a car-fire call, SDOT tweets “collision on 1st Ave S at Olson Pl SW blocking all SB lanes and NB right lane.”
8:51 AM: Bridge still busy (here’s another moment-in-time screengrab for the record and later comparison).
8:54 AM: The 1st/Olson/etc. situation may be an issue for a while. Reader just texted this photo:
So beware, if you are headed through the east end of the Roxbury corridor, to/from South Park and/or the 509 intersection there. (Added – a closer view that also shows a school bus apparently involved.)
SFD has been cleared and no medic units involved so apparently no serious injuries.
9:13 AM: SDOT says one southbound lane is getting through at the 1st/Olson/Myers scene … Our Water Taxi dock crew is back. Here’s a pic of the temp Pier 2 parking lot:
9:51 AM: Most-recent update from SDOT was that most lanes were open again at the Olson/Myers/1st scene. We’ll be following up on the crash later. … Eastbound bridge still busy; here’s the latest addition to this morning’s moment-in-time screengrabs so we have comparisons for future dates.
10:05 AM: Crash reported at California/Juneau. Two SFD units dispatched.
10:25 AM: That crash involves a car on sidewalk plus a truck. 1 person to hospital. Photo to come. SB side of California; traffic getting by in center lane.
11:25 AM: There’s the pic. On our way back from post-traffic-watch errands, we passed the scene again; truck gone, car being towed. SDOT sent an Incident Response Team truck, too.
Again this morning, the second weekday of the #Realign99 three-week Highway 99 closure for the viaduct-to-tunnel transition, multiple transportation agencies had reps available for reporter questions on a conference call. Here are the toplines:
CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS: WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers said, as he did yesterday, that work is “overall progressing very well.” The main reason for shutting this entire stretch of Highway 99, you’ll recall, is to do work tying the tunnel’s on- and off-ramps to the rest of the highway. One key point of interest for West Seattleites is the Dearborn offramp from 99 – which will become the key pathway into downtown for northbound traffic not using the tunnel – which is going to take a bit of time beyond the three-week “realignment closure.” Sowers said today that the projection remains “a week to 10 days” beyond the tunnel opening. Among other components of that part of the project, they have to pour concrete and give it two weeks to cure, then stripe it, he explained. He said they might have an estimate by the end of next week, adding “I can’t tell this group enough how motivated we are to get that ramp open as soon as possible.”
TRAFFIC WATCH: WSDOT and SDOT both said traffic patterns were similar to Monday (earlier than usual). We asked about West Seattle Bridge volume stats; that information might be available by day’s end.
TRANSIT WATCH: Total Water Taxi count for Monday (both directions) was 2,872, compared to 779 on the same day last year. This morning’s West Seattle count was 1,200 riders, up from 334 on the same date last year but down a bit from Monday. Still plenty of capacity, stressed Metro’s Jeff Switzer – same with the Pier 2 parking lot, which is only filling about a fifth of its 250 spaces so far. Switzer also had updated Metro bus stats: For all of yesterday they used “standby” coaches for 55 trips, handling 1,500 passengers, mostly for the C Line, E Line, and Route 120. This morning they used standby buses for 19 trips. One word of caution from Switzer: Metro volume usually peaks at midweek so don’t let any low-volume trip today fool you!
3:31 PM: Toplines from this afternoon’s briefing at Metro‘s Transit Operations Center east of the stadiums, led by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Metro deputy general manager Terry White: Things this morning went “fairly smoothly.” They addressed both county transit services, Metro buses and the King County Water Taxi. And the increase in ridership for the latter was described as even more than we’d heard at the pier this morning: 1,350 passengers this morning, 350 passengers on a typical morning this time of year.
They can handle twice that, and there’s still room at the temporary Pier 2 parking lot, so try the WT if you can. As for the various routing changes readers reported in comment discussion – they didn’t know yet if any would be formalized for tomorrow and beyond. As for the extra buses held at the ready in case more capacity was needed, they transported more than 300 people, mostly on the 120 and E Line. More to come, including video of the briefing.
4:43 PM: Here’s the video:
We also got a quick look inside the center, first time we had visited since the C Line’s launch inaugurated major West Seattle changes more than six years ago:
The center is where Metro is in constant communication with its drivers – one corner also hosts the customer call center, too. We asked about the changes-on-the-fly reported by some commenters this morning; Metro hadn’t yet had the afternoon meeting at which they planned to discuss how that went, with an eye toward tomorrow morning.
On this third day of Highway 99-less-ness, the #Realign99 work itself is going well, according to WSDOT‘s project deputy administrator Dave Sowers. That’s what he told reporters on a late-morning conference call. One bit of the ramp-building/tunnel-connecting work is even a bit ahead of schedule, Sowers said. But he also said there’s zero chance the tunnel will open early – they’re sticking to their plan for a February 2-3 celebration weekend, and then (assuming all goes well) the tunnel opening in time for the Monday, February 4th, morning commute. We’re on our way now to a Metro/Water Taxi-specific briefing in SODO; more to come.