West Seattle, Washington
With less than a month and a half to go until the Alaskan Way Viaduct is permanently closed (starting the evening of Friday, January 11th), WSDOT went public today with demolition details. The video above shows the sequence and methodology that’s planned (in short – starting in the middle, moving north, then moving south). Starting tonight, primarily for those who work/live downtown (though all are welcome), WSDOT is hosting three downtown info sessions (listed here) about the demolition of the Viaduct and Battery Street Tunnel; here are the info-boards they’ll be using, with specifics about street effects too:
(Go here [PDF] if the embed window above doesn’t work for you.) By the time the Viaduct demolition is done, 10 years will have passed since then-Gov. Christine Gregoire declared, when signing the tunnel bill, that its era was “over.” The southern mile of the elevated structure was taken down two years after that.
Another change just announced – new since the briefing we covered Monday night – for the viaduct-to-tunnel transition: Now TWO ramps in the stadium zone will close on January 4th, a week before the mainline closure.
WSDOT had already announced plans to close the SB 99 offramp to Atlantic Street starting January 4th; today, the state says the NB 99 onramp from Royal Brougham will also be closed starting January 4th: “This additional week will allow the contractor more time to perform critical work (including unburying tunnel on- and off-ramps) that has the potential for some unanticipated challenges, giving crews additional flexibility during the mainline closure.” WSDOT’s short time-lapse video above shows the construction of the tunnel ramps that will be “unburied” at that time.
Today’s full update is here, including a note that the NB 99 transit lane in SODO will be shortened by a third of a mile starting December 14th, for repair work.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When state, city, and county transportation officials gathered near the Alaskan Way Viaduct in September to announce it would close forever in January, that sounded so distant.
Now, more than two months have passed, and the January 11th shutdown for the tunnel transition is just 6 weeks and 2 days away. The transportation agencies are hitting the message hard: Be ready, be ready, be ready. The newest round of outreach is a series of info sessions around the city, starting with one last night at Delridge Community Center. We went to catch the toplines and the Q&A, in case you haven’t been paying attention and/or need a refresher course.
As with other recent presentations, this one pointed out that a variety of other factors will contribute to what’s now nicknamed the “Seattle Squeeze.” SDOT’s Meghan Shepard and Metro’s Paul Roybal led the session. Shepard said in cheery opening remarks, “I like to think that we are headed somewhere good.” Waterfront renovation and light-rail extension are part of that “somewhere.”
Now the toplines – you can review the slide deck above or here (PDF) – nothing brand new but at this point the sentiment seems to be, repeat repeat repeat to leave no chance of surprise:
If you still have questions about the upcoming closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct – and the other looming traffic-crunch factors – but haven’t made it to any of the meetings where it’s been discussed – here’s your next chance: Monday (November 26th), Delridge Community Center (4523 Delridge Way SW), 6:30-7:30 pm. This one’s a city presentation; the announcement says, “Please join the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and the Seattle Department of Transportation for an information session on the upcoming permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the other upcoming challenges to our transportation system as we build a better city.” It’s one of five around the city.
P.S. We covered last night’s briefing at the Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting and our report is in the works.
12:20 PM: Close to where northbound vehicles will enter the new Highway 99 tunnel starting in a few months, WSDOT, SDOT, and Metro just held another update/briefing event for the media.
Part of it was intended to underscore just how much work has to be done during the ~3 weeks between permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and opening of the tunnel – this new WSDOT video explains it:
No major new information about the closure period at today’s briefing, but we were there and noted some key points:
-SDOT has launched a new traffic-info website today at seattletraffic.org (this is where you can, among other things, sign up for neighborhood-specific alerts, which were previewed at a previous briefing)
-Metro is working on a new batch of brochures with information on bus changes
-Metro also notes that during the closure it will be “more dynamic,” with rerouting “on the fly” if needed
-The Water Taxi “two-boat” schedule information should be available online “soon”
-WSDOT says the tunnel will be toll-free into the summer, with tolling probably not starting until July/August
-You’re now warned that this is really just the start of a 5-year period of transportation turbulence in the city
-West Seattleites are reminded again that the three-week Highway 99 closure, and tunnel opening, will be followed by another two weeks or so of work before the new connection for those exiting NB 99 to downtown is ready to open
Otherwise, the big dates ahead are the same – January 4th for the closure of the SB 99 ramp to SODO, January 11th for the Alaskan Way Viaduct permanent shutdown/Highway 99 closure to get connection work done on both ends of the tunnel (again, the WSDOT video above explains), February 2-3 for the goodbye/hello weekend, tunnel opening TBA after that. We recorded today’s briefing and are processing the video, and will add it along with more toplines when ready.
7:42 PM: Here’s our video of the entire briefing:
Speakers were WSDOT’s Dave Sowers, SDOT’s Heather Marx, and Metro’s Bill Bryant. And another reminder – southbound 99 will be closed between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and the West Seattle Bridge this weekend for more prep work, starting around 9 tomorrow night and potentially continuing until very early Monday (as usual, we’ll publish an update if the closure ends early). This is a weather-dependent closure, WSDOT says, but so far the weekend forecast looks mostly dry.
One more reminder – next chance to bring your questions directly to transportation reps will be Monday’s meeting of the Junction Neighborhood Organization, 6:30 pm November 19th at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon).
As noted, it’s less than two months now until the January 11th date announced for permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and start of a three-weeks-and-then-some-for-us transition. Three things of note:
2. Next Monday night, you’re also welcome at the 6:30 pm Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting at the Senior Center/Sisson Building (4217 SW Oregon), which will include a briefing.
3. We’ll be covering another state/city/county media briefing tomorrow – if you have a transition question that’s so far gone unanswered, let us know (in a comment below, or message us) – we’ll do what we can to get the answer.
The State Route 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct through Seattle is scheduled to close this weekend at 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16 and reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, Nov. 19. Northbound SR 99 will remain open.
Southbound SR 99 will close between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and South Spokane Street to allow crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation to finish paving work near South Atlantic Street. The work must occur before crews can open the new SR 99 tunnel in early 2019.
The paving work requires good weather and will be rescheduled if heavy rain is expected.
This gives us the opportunity to note that the permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is now less than two months away – January 11th, as announced two months ago. WSDOT says it’ll then need about three weeks to “realign 99” before the tunnel can open; the exact opening date isn’t set yet, but WSDOT did announce recently that a pre-opening weekend of viaduct goodbyes and tunnel hellos is set for February 2-3. (By the way, we did verify with the King County Water Taxi that it will NOT be offering weekend service for that event – it’s doubling up during the shutdown, but as with the standard winter service, weekday commuter periods only.)
P.S. If you still have questions about getting around post-viaduct, be at next Monday’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting (6:30 pm November 19th, Senior Center/Sisson Building, 4217 SW Oregon) – city/county/state reps are on the agenda to talk about it.
WSDOT has long said that there’d be a public goodbye/hello party of some sort on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and in the new Highway 99 tunnel before it opens for use. This morning, the details are out. First, the news release:
Early next year, the public will have a unique weekend to run, bike, or simply explore Seattle’s past, present, and future.
Slated for Feb 2 and 3, the Washington State Department of Transportation and city of Seattle will host a grand opening celebration to mark the completion of the new State Route 99 tunnel, the final days of the viaduct, and an improved and reconnected waterfront.
Bookended by a fun run and bike ride, the weekend festivities also include a ribbon cutting, an art festival on the viaduct to celebrate the future waterfront, a public walk through in the new SR 99 tunnel, and interactive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities at the tunnel’s portals. Live music and food trucks will round out the celebration.
“This family-friendly event is a celebration for the Puget Sound region, and a big step forward for Seattle,” said David Sowers, WSDOT deputy administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “Event activities span from the stadiums to the Space Needle, so for the best experience, we’re encouraging people to plan their weekend and reserve tickets early.”
Saturday event schedule
WSDOT will kick off the weekend early Saturday morning, Feb. 2, with a community fun run sponsored by the HNTB Corporation. The 8K route will take runners through the new tunnel, on to the viaduct, and through the Battery Street Tunnel.
Officials will then cut a ribbon near the south portal, officially opening North America’s largest bored tunnel. At that time, the public can explore:
· The new SR 99 tunnel.
· An arts festival featuring over 100 local artists, installations and a community celebration on the viaduct.
· Community festivals near the stadiums and Seattle Center, with food trucks, live music and STEM activities.
· An interactive “Excavation Station” presented by Dragados U.S.A. that will show how crews used the tunneling machine Bertha to drill and build the 5-story tunnel under Seattle.
Sunday event schedule
On Sunday, Feb. 3, the weekend celebration closes with a bike ride sponsored by Cascade Bicycle Club. The 12-mile route will give cyclists their only opportunity to ride on both the upper and lower decks of the tunnel and viaduct.
Free and paid registration for events
WSDOT encourages participants to visit the Step Forward website to register for the following weekend events:
· Free tickets to explore the tunnel and viaduct on Saturday. Those who register gain entry priority.
· Paid entry to the Saturday morning fun run and/or Sunday morning bike ride. The public must register in advance in order to participate.
It’s complicated so we browsed the site for shortcuts. For one, if you’re interested in the run, the sooner you register, the lower the price – we checked the site and it’s $35 for the first 5,000 participants, going up from there. (The bike ride does not have the same fee structure.) For two, if you’re just interested in a (free) walk onto the Viaduct, that’s Saturday afternoon, but you still need (free) tickets.
P.S. The Alaskan Way Viaduct’s permanent closure is still on for January 11th.
As the planned Alaskan Way Viaduct closure gets ever closer – we’re now 2 1/2 months from January 11th – WSDOT has announced another tunnel project milestone:
Close followers of the project know that our website is home to an archive of contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners’ monthly schedule updates. These updates don’t show all the construction that’s happening on the project, but they do give an indication of critical work activities that must be completed to achieve an important contract milestone – “substantial completion” of the tunnel.
STP reached substantial completion earlier this month. This is the first of three contract milestones in STP’s work on the tunnel. It means the tunnel is far enough along for STP to officially hand the facility over to WSDOT. It doesn’t mean STP’s work is done, but it does mean the tunnel could be technically operated as designed.
What comes next is a variety of wrap-up work elements that, once completed, will result in the tunnel reaching the second milestone, known as “physical completion.” Meanwhile, as STP works toward physical completion, WSDOT will continue to train maintenance and operations staff to ensure the tunnel and those responsible for its operation are ready to go in early 2019.
The final contract milestone, aptly named “final completion,” will be achieved when paperwork and documentation are done. The tunnel will open before this final milestone is reached. You can see the latest schedule update – along with those from previous months – on our schedule page.
P.S. Got questions about the upcoming viaduct-to-tunnel transition? Your next chance to ask them is this Thursday night, when WSDOT reps are among the guests at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting in White Center (7 pm Nov. 1st, 1243 SW 112th).
On weekdays, tolls will be $1.50 during the morning peak commute (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.), $2.25 during the evening peak commute (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.), and $1.25 during non-peak hours between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Overnight (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and weekend tolls will be $1.00. Toll rates will increase by 3 percent every three years beginning in July 2022, subject to annual review by the Transportation Commission.
The Transportation Commission has previously determined that there will be consistent exemptions on all toll facilities for public transit, emergency responders, highway maintenance vehicles, school buses and qualified private buses, which serve the public or commuters.
State law requires that SR 99 tunnel tolls be used to repay $200 million borrowed to build the tunnel as well as related debt service costs, and ongoing operations, maintenance, and safety costs.
Drivers will not be charged immediately when the tunnel opens in early February. The start date has not been set, but it will apparently be months after the tunnel opens rather than weeks – this WSDOT Blog report about traffic-pattern changes expected when the tunnel opens says tolling is “expected to begin as soon as summer 2019.” In the meantime, until tolling begins, the report says, WSDOT is projecting more drivers will use the tunnel than currently use the Viaduct. … While we’re discussing Highway 99, yet another reminder that it will be closed BOTH WAYS this weekend, starting Friday night (October 19th) for inspection plus some viaduct-to-tunnel-transition work. As always, if the closure ends early, we’ll update you here.
4:21 PM: And we have an update already. The NB part of this weekend’s closure will be shorter. From the WSDOT website: “Northbound SR 99 will close Saturday, Oct. 20 at 6 a.m. and reopen Saturday afternoon by 5 p.m. The southbound closure remains unchanged.”
So far, this weekend’s Highway 99 closure (SB between the Battery Street Tunnel and West Seattle Bridge) has NOT ended early. But we want to take a moment to remind you about NEXT weekend’s both-ways closure – including the last-ever scheduled inspection of the Alaskan Way Viaduct – planned to start late Friday, October 19th, continuing to early Monday, October 22nd.
The Highway 99 tunnel is set to open in early February, after three weeks of road-realignment work following the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent closure on January 11th. It’ll be toll-free for a trial period at the start. Once that’s over – what will you be charged? That decision is expected to be made by the State Transportation Commission next week, after one last public hearing (11 am Tuesday, October 16th, in Olympia). Here’s the plan, with rates ranging from $1 to $2.25 (provided you sign up for Good To Go):
If you can’t be at that hearing but have something to say, the commission is taking written comment through tomorrow – scroll down this page to find out how.
P.S. Reminder that more prep work brings a closure oF SB 99 this weekend – details here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A week and a half after the big news that the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close forever on January 11th, with three weeks of Highway 99-less-ness to follow before the new tunnel opens (and other traffic effects beyond that), the West Seattle Transportation Coalition got a high-level briefing.
Leading that briefing last night: WSDOT’s Viaduct/99 project boss Brian Nielsen, SDOT’s downtown-mobility director Heather Marx, and King County’s Chris Arkills.
There were a few new bits of information – but even the not-so-new info bears hearing over and over as the 99-less period approaches.
Marx began with the overview that getting around the city is about to change – “it’s not going to be super-fun, for a few years” – with the promise that after those “few years,” things will be much better.
She showed the five pillars of how “downtown mobility” will be managed.
She made way for Nielsen, who promised specifics on “what’s going on in the Viaduct program now and the next couple years.” The number 5 figured into his early going, too – 5 things that have to be completed before the tunnel can open.
Again this weekend, the Highway 99 closure has ended earlier than scheduled. As you can see in the “live” traffic camera above, NB 99 is now fully reopened after completion of another round of work relate to the Viaduct-to-tunnel transition.
Two Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99-related notes on this day after The Big Announcement (WSB coverage here) that the AWV’s permanent shutdown for the tunnel transition (and then demolition) won’t happen until January 11th:
ANOTHER CLOSURE THIS WEEKEND: WSDOT confirms that another Highway 99 closure north of the West Seattle Bridge is planned this weekend, this time northbound, according to spokesperson Laura Newborn. When we checked with her this morning, she was awaiting confirmation on the Friday night (September 21) start time (update: 9 pm), but added that “WSDOT plans to open up the NB ramp at Royal Brougham so NB SR 99 will be accessible after the Seahawks game on Sunday.” That’s assuming the closure doesn’t end early, as last week’s southbound closure did.
BUS ROUTING AFTER THE PERMANENT CLOSURE: Looking ahead to its next “service change” this Saturday, Metro created timetables with information about what happens to the 12 routes that use the Alaskan Way Viaduct, once it closes. Below are the links to PDFs of each timetable and the language each respectively contains regarding rerouting during the Highway 99 closure:
(During the Highway 99 closure) … the C Line will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. The C Line will continue to operate via 3rd Ave midtown.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 21 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. All Express service will operate exclusively via 3rd Ave midtown; Local service will remain unchanged midtown
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 37 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. All Route 37 service will operate via 3rd Ave north of Columbia St during this time.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 55 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Route 55 will operate via 3rd Ave, but otherwise remain unchanged midtown.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … routes 56 and 57 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Both routes will operate via 3rd Ave, but otherwise remain unchanged midtown.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 113 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Midtown, Route 113 will shift operation from 1st Ave and 2nd Ave to 3rd Ave.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 120 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Route 120 will operate via 3rd Ave, but otherwise remain unchanged midtown.
(During the Highway 99 closure) … routes 121, 122 and 123 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Midtown, the three routes will shift operation from 1st Ave and 2nd Ave to 3rd Ave
(added) Route 125
(During the Highway 99 closure) … Route 125 will be rerouted through SODO via 4th Ave S, and via 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave south of Columbia St. Midtown, Route 125 will operate exclusively via 3rd Ave.
Since the timetables have language suggesting that the permanent AWV closure was expected to start around the end of this month, some might be confused, so we contacted Jeff Switzer of Metro, who reiterates, “The printed timetables for the 12 routes that use the viaduct will be accurate at the time the tunnel opens. The interim pathways defined during the closure are set, however, additional bus stops are under consideration. Buses will continue to use the viaduct and their current paths, and riders can expect the same trip duration, until the viaduct closes.” The mention of “additional” stops dovetails with what Metro deputy general manager Terry White said at yesterday’s media briefing, that stops are still being finalized.
(Added 6:20 pm: Full unedited video of briefing)
1:02 PM: Here’s the full news release:
Mark your calendars. In early 2019, the new State Route 99 tunnel will open, offering travelers a direct route from Seattle’s stadiums to the Space Needle.
To open the tunnel, the Washington State Department of Transportation must first realign the state highway, and then move SR 99 from the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct into the tunnel. This intensive work will last about three weeks and prompt the longest major highway closure to ever hit the Puget Sound region.
“The opening of the SR 99 tunnel will be an historic event in the state’s transportation history,” said Brian Nielsen, administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “Before we can celebrate, we have to get through an unprecedented closure that will require all of us to change our behavior.”
WSDOT’s current plan is to close SR 99 through Seattle beginning Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Closing SR 99 through Seattle is the only way crews can finish building the highway and the eight new ramps that will allow travelers to enter and exit the new tunnel
Travelers should expect region-wide congestion for up to six weeks as crews complete final connections to and from the new tunnel. In addition to the three-week closure:
*The off-ramp from southbound SR 99 to South Atlantic Street will permanently close one week earlier than the viaduct.
*The new off-ramp from northbound SR 99 to South Dearborn Street will require up to two weeks of additional work after the tunnel opens.
Get ready, make a plan
When the viaduct closes, 90,000 drivers who normally use the Alaskan Way Viaduct will need to find another way to get to, or through, downtown Seattle. During past Alaskan Way Viaduct closures, congestion increased on all major highways throughout Puget Sound as well as on local streets.
While WSDOT is working closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro and other key transportation agencies to keep traffic moving during this challenging time, help from drivers is critical.
“We need drivers to change their habits for three weeks to prevent gridlock,” said Nielsen. “We recognize everyone’s strategies will be different based on their needs, but consider other ways to get to and from your destination, if you can.”
When Seattle Tunnel Partners finished disassembling the tunneling machine Bertha in 2017, WSDOT estimated the tunnel would be open in early 2019. While there was optimism this date could be moved up, a number of factors influenced the decision to stay with the early 2019 date:
Construction progress: WSDOT has several contractors that must complete work to be ready for the three-week SR 99 closure. Scarsella Brothers, Inc. will then build the final tunnel and ramp connections. Some of this work, like road striping, is weather dependent.
Public notice: Starting in January ensures that contractor work will be complete and we can provide a specific date much further in advance. The public’s help will be critical and this will give everyone time to plan.
Holiday travel and commerce: WSDOT and its partner agencies are committed to keeping people and goods moving during the busy holiday season. Avoiding a major highway closure between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day helps achieve this goal. There are also fewer major events in early 2019 than there are during the last quarter of 2018.
Per the Legislature’s decision, the SR 99 tunnel will be tolled as a part of the project’s financing plan. The tunnel will be free to use when it first opens.
Additional details about the closure, tunnel opening and the future tolling of the tunnel can be found at www.99tunnel.com.
1:50 PM: The briefing is over and we’re headed back to HQ. We recorded it all on video and will be uploading that. Also, some West Seattle-specific details: Paul Brodeur from the King County Water Taxi said it will run a two-boat schedule on weekdays during the closure, with shuttles also doubled, and there will be extra parking including a lot at Pier 2, at Don Armeni, and along Harbor Avenue.
3:26 PM: Bus reroutes during the closure are already mentioned in route-specific pamphlets as part of Metro’s service-change announcement – but the language suggests they were expecting the closure to be much sooner, so we’re asking Metro if the January timing will change anything. Metro’s new deputy general manager Terry White said at the briefing that the stops for the 12 routes that will have to be rerouted are still being finalized.
6:20 PM: Just added our full unedited video of the briefing and Q&A from this afternoon.
The decision’s in. No Highway 99 closure this weekend, but WSDOT says one IS on the horizon. The announcement:
This weekend’s scheduled closure of southbound SR 99 through Seattle has been canceled. The viaduct will be open all weekend.
There is another full southbound closure scheduled for the following weekend. The road will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14 through 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 17 between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and South Spokane Street.
Contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will be completing pavement work needed for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. Drivers are encouraged to plan their trip before they go, and expect delays.
If you read SDOT’s “What’s Moving Seattle” roundup of events and road work, you might have noticed a SB Highway 99 closure mentioned for this weekend. That’s not listed on the WSDOT websites anywhere, so we checked with 99 spokesperson Laura Newborn. She says the final call on whether the closure is on or off will be made tomorrow.
No date set yet for the three-week Highway 99 closure that will precede the tunnel’s opening, but WSDOT is providing another peek inside the almost-ready tunnel today, along with this explanation:
… Crews are using stencils to paint “running man” symbols on walls in both directions of the tunnel.
The green icons are spaced about 50 feet apart on the west walls of the southbound (upper) and northbound (lower) roadways. As shown in the photo, arrows point the way to the nearest exits, along with the distances to them.
If the seven-foot-tall green stick figures don’t get your attention, flashing lights at each of the tunnel’s emergency exits and electronic signs will provide additional guidance.
Crews are also striping the roadway inside the tunnel, according to today’s update from WSDOT, which continues to promise that it will provide at least one month’s notice before the three-week closure, which will be followed by two more weeks of work on the ramp that West Seattleites will use to get into downtown south of the tunnel entrance.
WSDOT says today that there’s no date yet for closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct to begin the transition to the Highway 99 tunnel. But preparation work continues – including shifting the surface Alaskan Way out from under the Viaduct. Here’s the latest WSDOT update:
Last week marked the beginning of an important project that must be completed before the Alaskan Way Viaduct can be removed. Crews working for Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. have begun the traffic signal, striping and roadway signage work required to switch traffic on Alaskan Way from beneath the viaduct to just west of the viaduct. Alaskan Way’s travel lanes were detoured beneath the viaduct years ago to accommodate construction of the seawall project and the SR 99 tunnel, which could open as soon as this fall.
Crews will be working through late summer or early fall to restore street traffic to the west side of the viaduct. This switch will provide space under and around the viaduct for the removal work, while keeping Alaskan Way open during that construction. Implementing the traffic switch requires wiring intersections for traffic signals, installing roadway signage, and updating roadway and parking striping.
Crews are currently working on the west side of the viaduct, at the cross-street intersections from Yesler Way to Union Street. They are installing wooden traffic signal poles, trenching and adding underground conduits, and installing cables and traffic signals overhead.
This work will temporarily close some parking spaces and parts of the intersections to ensure the safety of crews and the travelling public. People walking, biking and driving along the waterfront will still be able to move through the area, and business loading zones will be preserved. Kiewit’s crews are minimizing their work areas where possible in order to limit these temporary parking disruptions.
This work will not disrupt the new, free Waterfront Shuttle. The pilot service is providing free hop-on, hop-off rides between Pioneer Square and the Space Needle, with stops along the waterfront. Part of WSDOT’s funding commitment to Seattle’s waterfront and Pioneer Square, the shuttle runs approximately every 25 minutes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, through October 1.
The switch of traffic from under the viaduct to west of the viaduct will happen before the three-week #realign99 closure of SR 99.
As explained in June, even after the tunnel opens, northbound traffic between the West Seattle Bridge and downtown will have about two additional weeks of detours while the new main pre-tunnel offramp is completed.
That’s video from WSDOT, recorded inside the Highway 99 tunnel during a first-of-its-kind test today. From WSDOT’s project spokesperson Laura Newborn:
This morning, Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractor for the SR 99 tunnel, successfully completed the first test of the tunnel’s deluge sprinkler system. In this two-minute test, 6,400 gallons of water poured out of the overhead sprinklers along a 216 foot section of the upper road of the double-deck tunnel. The tunnel is divided into 208 fire safety zones and the fire suppression system is designed to activate sprinklers within the safety zones – or more simply, at the point of a fire. Today’s test spanned two safety zones.
Seattle Tunnel Partners has many more systems tests and safety tests ahead before the tunnel is finished. After all tests are complete and all tunnel systems are a ‘go,’ WSDOT must close the viaduct through Seattle to finish building ramps and realign SR 99 into the new tunnel. Given the amount of testing still ahead, it remains too early to give an exact date for tunnel opening, but the tunnel could open to traffic as soon as this fall.
As we reported after covering a media briefing near the tunnel’s south entrance last week, Highway 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and tunnel will be off-limits to downtown-bound traffic for up to two extra weeks beyond the viaduct-to-tunnel transition closure, to finish the main route into downtown.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
For the first time in a while, the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program invited the media into the project zone outside the tunnel – not for a tunnel update, but to talk about two closures.
First one is the one we’ve been reminding you about daily since last weekend – 9 pm tonight until 6 am Sunday, southbound 99 is closing between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and the West Seattle Bridge. When it reopens, the stretch just north of the stadium zone will be realigned – a little less curvy, basically; not the final configuration, but closer to it. Here are WSDOT-provided images with the before and after – the U-shaped structure at the top of both views is the Atlantic Street overpass:
This won’t be a major change but it’s important for the project – WSDOT’s viaduct-to-tunnel program boss Dave Sowers explained at the briefing that this is part of getting 99 ready for connections to the tunnel and ramps in the area that will carry non-tunnel-bound 99 users into downtown post-viaduct.
Speaking of which, an update on the big tunnel-to-viaduct closure (likely this fall) was the other part of the briefing, and there’s something new for West Seattle drivers/riders – non-tunnel northbound traffic will be affected beyond the main closure itself. We’ll get into that next but first, here’s our video of the entire briefing and media Q&A in case you’d like to watch/listen for yourself:
The first thing to stress: No, there’s still no date for the three-weeks-or-so viaduct-to-tunnel closure. WSDOT hopes to be able to announce it about a month in advance, and currently expects the contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners will officially hand off the tunnel in late August. Sowers said their biggest goal is to have the tunnel open by Thanksgiving, but it could of course be sooner.
While the three-week closure itself isn’t news – we’ve reported it multiple times before – this is: West Seattleites need to know that even when the three-week closure is over and the tunnel is open, the main pre-tunnel ramp from northbound 99 into downtown – Dearborn Street – will not be ready for up to two MORE weeks. So your main paths into downtown until then will be via the low bridge/Spokane Street, or 1st or 4th or I-5 off the eastbound West Seattle Bridge – if you’re not tunnel-bound, you won’t be able to use NB 99 between here and downtown until Dearborn is ready to go.
WSDOT says it’s of course working with other agencies/services including Metro, the Water Taxi, and SDOT to coordinate planning, but they want you to start preparing too, so they’re starting to sound the alerts now.
Something else new: Viaduct demolition, post-closure, is expected to take about six months. That’s a shorter timeframe than previously mentioned. The contractor Kiewit will start at Columbia Street and at the “Pike hillclimb area.” Some work might even begin before year’s end, if the tunnel really does open by November, according to Sowers.
Though the briefing wasn’t about the tunnel itself, we asked what’s going on underground right now. Sowers said the roadway’s built and much of what’s happening now is testing, testing, testing. The tunnel includes “more than 5,000 different instruments” and they not only have to be tested individually, but project managers have to be sure those systems are “talking to each other.” They’re also striping and installing signs.
WSDOT is continuing to put more information about the project and the viaduct-to-tunnel transition online, with an easy-to-remember website: 99tunnel.com. And watch for word of another short-term closure later this summer like the one that’s set for 9 pm tonight through 6 am Sunday – Sowers said they’re trying to figure out the least-impactful dates.
By Randall Hauk
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
The Washington State Transportation Commission held an open house and public input meeting at High Point Community Center last night, seeking public comment on tolling proposals for the Highway 99 tunnel.
It was the second of three Seattle meetings between the commission and residents. Commissioner Roy Jennings opened the meeting by reminding those in attendance that the decision to toll the tunnel had already been made and was no longer up for debate. The commission instead was seeking input on a trio of toll-rate options.
Though all three plans are projected to meet the project’s fiscal obligations by 2045, they differ in price fluctuations throughout the day, as well as how increases are scheduled.