West Seattle, Washington
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.
“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 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.)
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.
One last round of reminders tonight, after an uneventful weekend post-Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown, with the first 99-less commute hours away:
(Live webcam showing work by south tunnel entrance. See other construction cameras here)
WHAT’S CLOSED: Highway 99, between the West Seattle Bridge and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel: The Viaduct is closed forever; the Highway 99 tunnel will be open the morning of February 4th if all goes well. Finishing the pre-tunnel exit ramp for NB 99 traffic to downtown (at Dearborn – here’s the explanatory video) is projected to take at least another week after that.
–Metro routing. All the routes that used the Alaskan Way Viaduct are using temporary new “pathways” to get downtown. (Here’s the map.)
-The temporary bus lane painted on the eastbound bridge and 4th Avenue is now officially in effect.
-Maritime openings of the low bridge are supposed to be kept to a minimum during morning peak hours and part of the afternoon (7-10 am and 2-5 pm). (Bridge openings are tweeted here.)
FOR WATER TAXI RIDERS
-Two boats on the West Seattle run (Doc Maynard and San Juan Clipper), both with 200+ capacity – here’s the schedule, including Vashon (which is on its regular schedule):
-Doubled free Water Taxi shuttle service (see the schedules here)
-Parking at Pier 2 (Harbor/Florida – here’s a map) with a free shuttle to the dock
-Overnight parking restrictions on Harbor between Fairmount Avenue and Don Armeni Boat Ramp, meant to ensure more street-parking spots for WT riders
-Extra bicycle parking at Seacrest
-Remember the Free Waterfront Shuttle once you get downtown (see the maps here).
THE OTHER SHUTTLE OPTION
-As long as you are traveling either to or from The Junction or Seacrest, and are in the service area, Ride2 might be an option for you. (See the map, times, etc. on the Ride2 website.)
TRAFFIC CONTROL ONCE YOU’RE OFF THE BRIDGE
-The city plans to station uniformed police officers at key locations from SODO to downtown – see the list and maps here. (And note that the city says the plan is subject to change at any time.)
WSB TRAFFIC COVERAGE
-We’ll be starting by 5:30 am and will see how that goes. We’ll have a crew at the Water Taxi dock monitoring the situation there, as well as at the desk here watching/listening to the traffic/transit situation. We’ll also, as we did during the last weekday Viadoom, have running PM coverage for starters. Something to report to us? (Not while you’re at the wheel, of course!) 206-293-6302, text or voice.
-If you have questions or observations, please share those when you can – we’ll be participating in media briefings between the am and pm commutes.
-In addition to the cameras we will feature during ongoing coverage, our 24/7 traffic-cameras page is here.
Notes from the first day of the Highway 99 viaduct-to-tunnel-transition closure:
VIADUCT RAMP DEMOLITION: WSDOT keeps stressing that this is NOT the start of the full demolition – that six-month process won’t launch until next month (with some of the debris to be used in the Battery Street Tunnel decommissioning). But the ramp to the remaining elevated Viaduct is coming down this weekend, to clear the way for the intersection that will be used by (among others) West Seattleites getting off NB 99 to head into downtown.
WSDOT’S UPDATE: That demolition work comprises most of the update posted by WSDOT, which also notes that traffic and transit were “similar to average weekend conditions.”
METRO’S NEW ROUTES: Remember that the closure means new routes for the buses that previously traveled the Viaduct, and that started last night. The maps are here and here (that last one shows the “interim” pathways that buses then will use for up to a year after the tunnel opens).
WATER TAXI’S EXTRA BOAT: As we reported last night, the San Juan Clipper will join the Doc Maynard on the West Seattle Water Taxi run. The Water Taxi is NOT running on weekends (though the county has said the “celebration” weekend February 2-3 will be an exception), but Jennie spotted the SJ Clipper at Seacrest today:
Here again is the which-vessel-on-which-run is planned starting Monday:
And the extra-parking info (among other details for water-taxi riders) is available here.
ANOTHER LOOK AT THE PARTY: In addition to the helicopter video we featured last night, here’s a bit of video of what it was like in the midst of the final cruise, linked in a WSB comment by Mike Russell:
Regional media reports people were walking on the viaduct at sunset tonight. Remember, an official chance to say goodbye is coming up the first weekend of February, just before the tunnel’s expected opening – info here.
TRAFFIC WATCH: Quiet today but we’re continuing to watch the outbound and inbound routes. If you encounter an incident we haven’t reported yet, please alert us at 206-293-6302 when you can do so safely/legally (after calling it in to authorities if they’re not on scene yet). And our collection of SDOT/WSDOT traffic cameras is here.
12:21 AM: While the Columbia Street onramp closure happened just before 10 pm as planned, the process of fully closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct took two more hours because of an impromptu farewell party. Guardian One recorded this unique view of people driving, dancing, walking, waving, and more:
Though an officially “goodbye, Viaduct/hello, Tunnel” event is planned in three weeks, those people decided to say farewell on their own terms. Finally, just after midnight, WSDOT tweeted that “the viaduct is clear and the #Realign99 closure is officially underway!” So Highway 99 is now closed for ~3 weeks between the West Seattle Bridge and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel. Much more coverage to come, starting later today.
8 AM: Uneventful night since then. Reminder that our traffic-cam page is here (we’ll be adding and subtracting a few this weekend, but they already have the biggies for West Seattle in/out flow). And here’s a “live” look at the eastbound bridge:
Are you ready for the Seattle Squeeze? This photo from our Jack Large Photograph Collection shows the view west over the Alaskan Way Viaduct in January 1967. #SpecialCollectionshttps://t.co/w1vjjVX8S6 pic.twitter.com/BTf6BoVNYI
— Seattle Library (@SPLBuzz) January 11, 2019
7:46 PM: A day full of Alaskan Way Viaduct nostalgia ended with a colorful sunset.
It was a beauty. pic.twitter.com/o71a0Z8bqa
— J. Michael Starling (@jmstarl) January 12, 2019
— anthonyk (@anthonykdrives) January 12, 2019
Now, it’s almost closure time.
No big briefing today but we have new information including responses to reader questions. First, a reminder of the timeline:
-10 pm, Highway 99 officially closes between the West Seattle Bridge and south end of Battery Street Tunnel. WSDOT says the Columbia Street onramp will be the first section closed, around 9:45 pm.
WEST SEATTLE WATER TAXI: Two-boat service begins Monday (January 14th). While seeking answers to readers’ questions, here’s what we have learned:
-Second boat on the run will be the San Juan Express, capacity 245 passengers, which is close to the size of the regular boat MV Doc Maynard. (The much-smaller Spirit of Kingston will remain available as a backup.) From spokesperson Brent Champaco:
The schedule – which is subject to change – has the San Juan Clipper starting the day’s service with the 5:55 a.m. sailing out of Seattle followed by the 6:15 a.m. sailing out of Seacrest. The Doc Maynard will follow with the 6:15 a.m. sailing out of Seattle and the 6:30 a.m. sailing out of Seacrest. The two vessels will alternate until the 9:25 a.m. sailing out of Seacrest.
We’ll use the Doc Maynard for the midday service between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Both boats will resume service beginning with the 3:25 p.m. sailings out of Seacrest (Doc Maynard) and Pier 52 (San Juan Clipper) respectively, until the final sailing at 7:05 p.m. out of West Seattle.
Please note that the 5:05 p.m. sailing out of Pier 52 in Seattle has been moved up to 5 p.m. This is a slight change to the expanded schedule that’s in our printed brochures.
Here’s the planned schedule including the Sally Fox on the Vashon route, which is not adding capacity:
WATER TAXI SHUTTLES: In response to questions about whether larger buses will be used, spokesperson Torie Rynning says no, they’ve just doubled up here too: Two 19-passenger shuttles on each of the two routes during peak hours, one during the added midday hours. The Pier 2 parking shuttles will use a 19-passenger bus and a 33-passenger bus.
ONE MORE WATER TAXI NOTE: King County Executive Dow Constantine plans to be at the dock for a while Monday morning.
RIDE2 CONTINUES: We asked Metro about the Ride2 usage so far: It averaged 26 passengers a day during last week’s non-holidays. If you missed the original announcement a month ago, this is an on-demand service you can use provided your starting or ending point is either The Junction or the Water Taxi dock. Find out more here.
POLICE OFFICERS DIRECTING TRAFFIC: The plan to have police assigned to certain intersections has been in the works for a while. Now, SDOT has provided the list and maps of where – part of this new post on the city’s recently launched traffic-info website. Here for example is the map showing the plan for 4th/Spokane:
TRAFFIC COVERAGE ON WSB: It’s been a priority for a long time and you can count on us to step it way up during the Highway 99 closure and beyond. Your help is always important – now more than ever. If you see a problem and we’re not reporting it, please let us know when you can (once of course you have reported it to authorities, if they’re not on the scene either) – safely and legally – 206-203-6302, text or voice, 24/7. Meantime, we’ll update later tonight once the closure’s officially in effect. And we’ll be adjusting our standard resources (like the cameras page) to reflect “the new normal.”
10:05 PM: The closure has indeed begun – after a crowd of drivers took to the Viaduct to travel it one last time! Separate report to come, but for starters:
— SR 99 (@BerthaDigsSR99) January 12, 2019
11:30 PM: We haven’t published a separate update yet because it’s still not fully closed – it’s taken an hour and a half so far to clear the last vehicles off!
12:07 AM SATURDAY: Finally cleared, says WSDOT.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As in “The Viaduct’s going to be closed forever.”
Multiple speakers, including Mayor Jenny Durkan, used the word at today’s last multi-agency briefing before the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent shutdown at 10 pm Friday (January 11th).
First – here’s the video, so you can watch and listen for yourself if you want to:
This briefing was held at SDOT headquarters in the city’s Municipal Tower downtown. Among the speakers were two new players in the city government’s transportation scene – Sam Zimbabwe, who hasn’t officially started work as SDOT director yet, and Michael Worden (with the mayor in top photo), the retired general hired to be the city’s mobility czar.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
X marks the spot.
WSDOT and other agencies gathered local news media near that spot at midmorning today for the latest briefing looking ahead to the weeks of 99-less-ness while work is done for the viaduct-to-tunnel transition. We recorded it all on video:
No huge headlines at the briefing, but its context was shaped by today’s tougher-than-usual morning commute out of West Seattle, one that hadn’t yet subsided when we headed out for the 10:30 am briefing. The main event factoring into the hours-long backup was a stuck truck blocking one lane of NB 99; that was enough fodder to imagine what things might be like once all of 99 is out of commission for 3 weeks starting Friday night.
SDOT‘s director of downtown mobility Heather Marx (a West Seattleite) urged commuters to be kind and patient with each other. Seattle Police Assistant Chief Steve Hirjak said police will be taking special measures to help tow trucks get though when needed, and that a new auxiliary tow yard has opened “closer to downtown” so that crews involved in clearing incidents won’t be out of service for as long as usual.
Those tow trucks might be busy with other things during #Realign99 – Marx said, “We will tow with alacrity” if people violate the temporary no-parking zones that are planned in various spots. Hirjak reiterated that police will be deployed to keep certain intersections moving, but their goal is more to move people along than to cite them, though ticketing is not “off the table.”
Seattle Fire Deputy Chief Ron Mondragon said SFD will keep close watch on response times, and if they have to take extra measures downtown such as using transit lanes, they will.
Among the many other things that will be watched and adjusted if necessary once the effects of the Highway 99 closure are fully up to (or more like down to) speed next week: Metro bus operations. Post-briefing, we asked Metro’s Bill Bryant the question we continue to hear – will the buses that formerly used The Viaduct be stopping anywhere south of downtown? He says the inbound buses will all stop at either Yesler or James for starters, but that will change if it turns out to be a logjam. (Here again are the Metro routes [PDF], both temporary for #Realign99, then interim, then permanent.)
As for the #Realign99 work itself, WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers said what began when the 99 ramps in the stadium zones were closed is “progressing” well. WSDOT published this time-lapse video of the built-then-buried tunnel approach ramp being unearthed:
That part of the ramp was built in 2013 – the same year tunnel-digging began, after the tunneling machine arrived from Japan.
If all goes well, the tunnel could open as soon as the night of Sunday, February 3rd, WSDOT has said. Remember that if you’re not using the tunnel, 99 won’t be of use for another week or more after it opens, because work will continue to finish the new Dearborn ramp. If you missed it last week, here’s the WSDOT video explaining how getting into downtown via that ramp will work:
WHAT’S NEXT: At least one more briefing before the Friday night closure.
Six nights until the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes forever. Got your plan for how to get around during the #Realign99 viaduct-to-tunnel transition time? Today was the day West Seattle Bike Connections offered a free guided ride to anyone interested in testing the route to/from downtown. WSBC’s Don Brubeck forwarded the video by Paul Dieter; Don reports, “28 adults + 4 kid passengers. Strong interest in this commute option!” P.S. If you’d like to meet up with WSBC pre-Viadoom, their regular monthly meeting is next Tuesday (January 8th), 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House High Point (6400 Sylvan Way).
In our report last night on a City Hall briefing about changes related to the Viaduct-to-Tunnel transition – aka #Realign99 – we mentioned temporary bus lanes, including the 4th Avenue S. offramp from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge. We asked SDOT after the briefing when that work would be done. They didn’t have an answer then – but today, they’ve announced work will happen tomorrow:
Temporary bus lane construction will occur on Saturday, January 5.
To manage the increased volume of traffic on our city’s streets and changing traffic patterns in advance of the SR closure beginning Friday, January 11, we’re rechannelizing key streets downtown starting Saturday, January 5. Streets include the Spokane Street Viaduct, the eastbound off-ramp to 4th Ave S and a short section of 4th Ave S approaching Spokane St.
These dedicated bus-only lanes will allow buses coming in from West Seattle to access the SODO busway and improve bus travel time throughout the SR 99 closure.
The graphics included with our Street changes for SR 99 closure begin January 5, 2019 flyer show what’s changing.
Here’s what you can expect:
On the Spokane Street Viaduct in the eastbound direction, the right lane will be converted to a bus only lane from 1st Ave S and will continue to the 4th Ave S exit to the signalized intersection at 4th Ave S. On 4th Ave S, we are adding a short bus-only lane heading northbound approaching Spokane St. These changes will be in place by 11 PM on Saturday, January 5.
To accommodate this change, we have modified the island separating the north and southbound lanes on 4th Ave at Spokane St and a third northbound lane was added in December.
Rain is expected to occur after Saturday, January 5, so these lanes will be installed prior to these weather impacts. Completing this work one week early ensures that we avoid delays associated with weather for this installation in order to allow buses to begin using the lane on January 11. So, while we are installing these lanes on Saturday, January 5, there won’t be any buses using this lane until after 8 PM on January 11.
Please note that these are temporary bus lanes and will be restored to general travel lanes open to all vehicles in mid-February when the northbound off-ramp to Dearborn St is opened and King County Metro resumes northbound service on the SR 99 corridor.
And another reminder – the first #Realign99 closures start tonight – the Atlantic and Royal Brougham exits from/to 99 in the stadium zone close permanently at 10 pm tonight, exactly one week before the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s 10 pm January 11th permanent closure.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
What happened to us on the way to today’s Viaduct-closure briefing was a reminder of why you’ll want to know enough about options for getting around that you’d be able to switch routes if you have to.
Leaving at 9:15 am to travel the 8.5 miles from Upper Fauntleroy to City Hall should have been enough time for a pre-Viadoom, post-holiday morning.
Taking the high bridge to the 4th Avenue S. exit is our preferred route, as City Hall is on 4th.
Today – so was a crash with a “rescue extrication” response; one person was taken to the hospital. 4th was blocked just north of the end of the NB exit ramp.
Kind fellow drivers let us switch lanes to the SB exit ramp, and we headed south, diverting to 1st Ave. S. at the first possible opportunity.
But – the story will be different if something like this happens in the tunnel-transition time post-Viaduct closure (10 pm Friday, January 11th). The 4th Avenue offramp will devote one of its two lanes to buses. Temporary transit lanes like that are part of the city’s toolbox for trying to ease the “Seattle Squeeze” that kicks off when the Viaduct is closed for the ~3 weeks of work that’ll be needed to #Realign99.
Today’s briefing was primarily about what the city and other transportation/transit agencies, like Metro, are doing, and most of it is information we’ve already reported, but now that the end (of The Viaduct) is in sight, it’s time to sit up and really pay attention.
So first, here’s the slide deck from the briefing (13 MB PDF). Next, video of the briefing, from our late arrival:
Of continued interest are the bus changes. The latest version of the South End Pathways map is in the slide deck linked above. Metro’s Bill Bryant recapped the metamorphosis that’s in store for the routes that currently use the Alaskan Way Viaduct – their temporary routes for the Highway 99 closure (three weeks plus the extra week-or-two to finish the new Dearborn exit ramp from NB 99 into downtown), the transition period over the next up-to-a-year while the Viaduct is being demolished and the new Alaskan Way is being built, and the routes’ permanent changes after that. The transitional time will put 40 to 50 buses an hour on 4th Avenue during peak hours, Bryant noted. And if transit gets overloaded, Metro will have 20 coaches on standby, ready to augment any route. Meantime, as the “pathways” map shows, Metro has two options for outbound (pm commute) routes and will be ready to “quickly shift” between them if needed – that’s part of why those routes will be passing through SODO but NOT STOPPING in that area.
A few miscellaneous points that caught our ear:
-SDOT is now up to six “incident response teams” to try to clear trouble faster
-43,000 people have signed up for the Viaduct farewell visits on February 2nd (go here if you haven’t already)
-The city has 7,000 employees downtown, about a tenth of them driving single-occupancy vehicles, and the city is working to provide incentives (teleworking, flex hours, etc.) to reduce that
-If everything SDOT does to try to manage traffic isn’t enough, SDOT’s Heather Marx said, there’s a “Plan B” with more signal modifications, increased street-parking restrictions, more transit-only lanes, potential operations of some streets as transit only, modified I-5 ramp availability/signal timing, restricted turning, expanded hours for transit priority/restrictions, increased “call to action” messaging and more.
WHAT’S NEXT: Tomorrow (Friday, January 4) at 10 pm, the Highway 99 ramps in the stadium zone (Royal Brougham and Atlantic) close permanently so the #Realign99 work can begin. Exactly one week later, the Viaduct closes permanently (10 pm Friday, January 11). If all goes well, WSDOT hopes it can open the tunnel at the end of the celebration weekend – the night of Sunday, February 3rd. The NB 99 Dearborn ramp – which West Seattleites will use to get into downtown from 99 – won’t be ready for “a week or so” after that.
Transportation managers plan more briefings/availabilities in the week-plus ahead, so keep asking questions, and we’ll seek answers. (Tomorrow morning’s briefing topic: Expanded availability of the temporary free downtown waterfront shuttle.)
With nine days left until the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes forever for the tunnel transition, the countdown is revving up. We’re just back from a media briefing in SODO at one of the two 99 ramps that will close this Friday – a week before the Viaduct itself – for transition work to begin. What’s new: WSDOT has released videos that try to more clearly answer the persistent questions about how getting into and out of downtown will work after the transition. Two of the clips are particularly relevant to West Seattle – first, how you’ll get into downtown from NB 99:
Second, here’s how you’ll get to SB 99 to get out of downtown:
(The other two new videos are linked here.) For months, WSDOT has been warning that the new Dearborn ramp into downtown from NB 99 won’t be ready for another two weeks or so after the tunnel opens. But when we previewed the video about getting into downtown, we noticed it says the ramp should open after “a week or so.” We asked project deputy administrator Dave Sowers about that at today’s briefing.
He acknowledged that finishing the new ramp could take as little as five extra days of work post-tunnel opening. We recorded the entire 15-minute briefing on video and will add it here when it’s uploaded. (Added 1:55 pm – here it is:)
Other highlights: Sowers said WSDOT is ready to go for the tunnel transition work. If all goes well, the tunnel could open right after the weekend of “goodbye/hello” celebrations February 2-3, Sowers said, possibly that Sunday evening. … The Atlantic and Royal Brougham ramp closures that take effect this Friday night (10 pm January 4th) will mostly affect those who live and work in SODO – 23,000 vehicles a day use the ramps. “There’s a fair amount of work we need to get ahead,” Sowers said, starting with removal of the geofoam that’s under the soon-to-be-closed ramps, revealing more of the permanent northbound tunnel onramp.
SIDE NOTE: Today’s briefing was WSDOT only, and focused on the tunnel transition work itself, not getting around during it. We will be covering a city-led briefing about the latter tomorrow, so if you still have questions about that, let us know and we’ll do our best to get them answered!
Time for the countdown to rev up. The first closures as part of #Realign99 – the work that’s necessary for the Highway 99 viaduct-to-tunnel transition – are now less than 1 week away:
10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4: Stadium ramps close
Northbound SR 99 on-ramp at South Royal Brougham Way closes (near stadiums; connection to I-90 and I-5).
Southbound SR 99 off-ramp at South Atlantic Street closes (near stadiums; connection to I-90 and I-5).
That’s exactly one week before the Alaskan Way Viaduct is permanently closed at 10 pm Friday, January 11th. The full timeline is here.
ORIGINAL WEDNESDAY REPORT: With the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure (10 pm January 11th) nearing, it’s time to get down to even more details of changes both temporary and permanent. Tonight: Harbor Avenue parking for riders planning to use the West Seattle Water Taxi‘s doubled service. First, new signage noticed by Carolyn, who sent the photo:
SDOT tells WSB that the newly designated “carshare vehicles only” spaces are for Car2Go/ReachNow/LimePod (more on that new service tomorrow) vehicles, and that this is a permanent change.
As for temporary changes: Briefings have mentioned for months that there would be restrictions along the water side of Harbor Avenue near Seacrest, to facilitate more Water Taxi park-and-ride use. So we also asked SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg about the newest details for those spaces. The current plan, she replied, is “to temporarily restrict on-street parking between 2 and 5 AM along Harbor Ave SW from Fairmount Ave SW to SW Spokane St. Current expectations are restrictions will last from January 11, 2019 until about mid-February, when the northbound off-ramp to Dearborn opens.”
As previously announced, an extra parking lot is also opening – as it did during the 2016 Viaduct closure – Pier 2 (entrance at Harbor/Florida, across from the Harbor Avenue 7-11), with a free shuttle to and from Seacrest, where the Water Taxi’s special two-boat, weekday-only schedule (except for the celebration weekend February 2-3) will continue all the way until seven-day spring/summer service begins in late March.
THURSDAY 6:38 PM: SDOT’s Schellenberg said late today that the information she gave us on Wednesday was inaccurate – the stretch of Harbor that will be restricted is actually from Maryland to Fairmount (map).
(March 2010 view of the “low bridge,” from its tower, by then-Councilmember Tom Rasmussen)
With the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s permanent shutdown and tunnel transition now three weeks away – 10 pm Friday, January 11th – recaps and reminders are rampant. New information continues to emerge, too. In her weekly update, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold includes this:
(T)he U.S. Coast Guard, which regulates bridge openings, has approved a temporary restriction from January 11 to February 9 to limit Spokane Street Bridge openings (i.e. the “lower bridge” adjacent to the West Seattle Bridge). The restrictions will be in place from 7-10 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m., and prohibit openings for vessels of 5000 or more gross tons (see page 3 of the Coast Guard’s Notice to Mariners).
Though the “low bridge” is a city-owned structure, the Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the waterway’s use for maritime traffic, and it’s generally rejected calls over the past decade-plus for longer-term restrictions on the times when it “closes” to vehicle traffic. The Coast Guard did agree to pm restrictions during the 2011 closure related to demolition of the AWV’s southern section.