West Seattle, Washington
Photos and story by Patrick Sand and Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog co-publishers
Curving over 1st Avenue South, that’s the ramp West Seattleites have been waiting for since SDOT closed and demolished its predecessor two years ago, as part of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project. The new combination on-and-off-ramp for the westbound SSV isn’t expected to be ready for you to use until summer’s end – one year longer than estimated back in 2010 – but it’s getting closer:
That’s the view we had from halfway up the ramp during a tour with the project team on Friday afternoon. We saw what’s happening now and talked about what’s happening next – including the reason why the westbound SSV is now (as of 6 pm Saturday 6/9) CLOSED for the remainder of the weekend. Read on for details, including 18 more photos from our tour:
That photo is from a tour of the Spokane Street Viaduct construction zone this afternoon, just as the city gets ready for another major closure. While our full tour report will have to wait till this evening, we wanted to issue a closure reminder before everyone heads out for the weekend: The closure is WESTBOUND ONLY, on the bridge between I-5 and Highway 99, and the time is unusual: 6 pm Saturday till 5 am Monday. (Remember, as noted here yesterday, there’s a lot going on Saturday afternoon in SODO, so the city didn’t want to start the shutdown till all that lightened up.) You will NOT be able to get onto the bridge from I-5 during the closure, but you WILL be able to get to it from Highway 99. Meantime, more later on what we saw, and learned about the project, during our tour.
(Friday photo of the Spokane Street Viaduct – top of the photo is the east end – by Long Bach Nguyen)
We just confirmed with SDOT‘s Paul Elliott, spokesperson for the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project, that the plan to switch open offramps on the eastbound side is a “go” for tonight.
This means that starting tomorrow morning, if you use the eastbound SSV (the West Seattle Bridge between 99 and I-5), the 4th Avenue South offramp will be OPEN, while the 1st Avenue South offramp will be CLOSED, a reverse of what it’s been for the last few weeks. This is required as they continue to repair and resurface the old – south – side of the elevated structure (we explained the work in this April report). Elliott says they’re still projecting the 1st Avenue ramp will be closed about two and a half weeks, but “it could slip.” The westbound SSV, he reminds us, will be closed most of the weekend June 9th-10th (6 pm Saturday 6/9 through 5 am Monday 6/11).
The entire SSV project is currently expected to be complete by early September; while the new 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the west side will be usable by emergency vehicles soon, it will not be open to general traffic until the project is complete, because of the need for transition space for regular traffic to get on and off, which won’t be available till the full width of the newly widened bridge is in use.
ADDED 2:17 PM: A commenter wondered about Metro reroutes – yes, there are some, and here’s the full list.
The good news is, the city expects to reopen the 4th Avenue S. offramp from the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct next Wednesday, May 30th. The not-so-good news is, as previously warned, that means the 1st Avenue S. ramp will close temporarily, as rehab work continues on the old deck of the widened SSV. Here’s the latest about that and other project-related changes/closures for next week (plus another warning about the June 9-11 westbound closure) from project spokesperson Paul Elliott:Read More
Today was meeting day for the informal West Seattle community task force that SDOT convenes monthly to discuss the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project. One big message from the project team: The workers on the bridge are very close to the traffic lanes now (we took the photo above from the 1st Avenue South exit while headed downtown Thursday morning), so please, please heed the speed limit. There are some other long-range project updates we’ll share in a separate report later, but right now, the official list of upcoming closures discussed at the meeting has just arrived in news-release format. (Side note: Regarding the traffic backups and signage problems last Tuesday night, SDOT saw and heard the comments, and is working on better signage for upcoming closures.) Note that this list of dates also includes the scheduled reopening of the 4th Avenue S. offramp from the eastbound bridge, likely May 22nd, at which time the 1st Avenue S. ramp will close for about a month, as bridge deck work shifts westward. Here’s this afternoon’s announcement:Read More
(Photos courtesy SDOT)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Tomorrow starts the first full week of realigned traffic on the Spokane Street Viaduct – the official name for the easternmost section of the West Seattle Bridge, between Highway 99 and I-5.
After two weekdays with the SSV’s newly built north side handling all four lanes of bridge traffic, during the final phase of three years of work to widen the bridge, project-team leaders promised “tweaks” to the signage for one aspect of the realignment that caused more upheaval than expected – the new restrictions on the eastbound onramp that deposits vehicles on the bridge right before 99.
Those vehicles are now only allowed to go to northbound 99, rather than onto the SSV, but as WSB commenters noted, some semi-trucks, either out of surprise or defiance, were running through the upright lane markers on Thursday. SDOT asked the contractor to bring in some “double-collared” orange barrels on Friday, but that didn’t deter everyone, acknowledged project manager Stuart Goldsmith; project engineer Darin Stephens even got video of one truck driving on through.
We talked with Goldsmith, Stephens, and community-relations rep Paul Elliott during the second meeting of a community task force that’s getting periodic briefings on where the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project stands in its final months. Friday afternoon’s meeting was scheduled before SDOT knew it would be making the lane switch on Thursday, but the timing proved fortuitous for discussing the changeover, as well as other updates.
(Scroll down for ongoing updates during the morning commute)
(No cameras in the construction zone, so here’s the SDOT webcam view looking toward it)
5 AM: If you use the Spokane Street Viaduct – the West Seattle Bridge between I-5 and Highway 99 – this is the morning a big, though temporary, change is supposed to kick in, as of right about now: All four lanes of traffic will be using the newly built north side of the elevated structure, which means …
*Narrower lanes (10 feet)
*25 mph speed limit
*No eastbound access to the 4th Avenue S. offramp for at least the first six weeks
This is all for the biggest part of the final phase of the three-plus-year Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project – rehabbing the original elevated structure, to the south of the newly built one. When it’s all done, the new north side will carry the westbound lanes and the original south side will carry the eastbound lanes. Meantime, the tighter-squeeze temporary configuration will likely mean slower going, so we’ll watch this morning’s commute closely, for starters. And (once your commute is over) let us know how it goes for you.
(Photo shared by Ben)
7:46 AM NOTE: Commenters are talking about one other change mentioned in the city reminder from yesterday afternoon:
In addition, access to the eastbound Spokane Viaduct from the eastbound Harbor Island on-ramp will be restricted – the ramp will only provide access to northbound SR99—until the eastbound traffic is moved back onto the refurbished structure in the late summer.
8:17 AM UPDATE: Text (206-293-6302 any time) and Twitter tips say there’s a multi-car “fender bender” in the right eastbound lane of the Spokane Street Viaduct, with “huge backups” ensuing.
8:47 AM UPDATE: Police are handling the crash – units were going from West Seattle, but were called off when closer units said they would handle – but we haven’t heard whether it’s been cleared yet. Multiple reports say the bridge trouble has backed up approaches including Delridge and 35th.
9:18 AM UPDATE: The bridge crash has JUST been cleared – it was announced on the scanner, “All lanes of the eastbound West Seattle Bridge are now open.”
(Screengrab of lower-bridge opening, 9:11 am)
However, the low bridge has been out of commission for a while, as a barge goes through…
Pilot/photographer Long B. Nguyen shared that view from a few days ago, looking east over the Spokane St. Viaduct, toward Beacon Hill and I-5. This evening we have an update on the plan to move all SSV traffic onto its newly built north side, so that, as part of the SSV Widening Project, the original south side can be repaired and resurfaced before it’s all joined for good. You might have seen the postal-mail brochure that arrived in many mailboxes on Monday (if not, see it here); like the story we published last Friday, it said that the switchover MIGHT happen as soon as Thursday. We have just confirmed with SDOT that it **IS** on for 5 am Thursday (following an eastbound overnight closure). Once it kicks in, travel lanes will be 10 feet wide, so the speed limit will be reduced to 25 mph, both ways. Also, the 4th Avenue South ramp will be closed for two months or so (but 1st will be open).
SIDE NOTE: News just came in about another project you can see in the aerial photo – at lower right, the $52 million East Marginal Way Grade Separation, built by the Port of Seattle, is officially complete and there’s a dedication ceremony at 2 pm tomorrow.
That’s a recent view of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project work zone, with the new 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the right, courtesy of Gatewood pilot/photographer Long Bach Nguyen. Tonight, we have the latest SDOT update on closures planned as part of the project:
The westbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct between I-5 and SR 99 will be closed three nights next week, Monday through Wednesday, April 2-4, from 10 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning. This will close direct access to West Seattle via the Spokane Street Viaduct from both northbound and southbound I-5. (Motorists traveling southbound on SR 99 will still be able to access the off-ramp to the West Seattle Bridge.)
Southbound traffic from I-5 wishing to travel to West Seattle should detour by exiting I-5 at S Forest Street, turning right (northbound) onto Sixth Avenue S, then turning left (westbound) at S Lander Street, turning left again (southbound) at First Avenue S, turning right (westbound) at S Hanford Street, turning left (southbound) onto East Marginal Way S, and finally turning right (westbound) onto the lower S Spokane Street roadway and across the swing bridge to West Seattle. Northbound traffic from I-5 wishing to travel to West Seattle should exit the freeway at Sixth Avenue S, and then follow the same detour route outlined above.
Other upcoming closures in the immediate vicinity include:
(The westernmost aqua spur is the new Harbor Island ramp – click for larger image)
An alert for westbound drivers on the West Seattle Bridge – Another component of the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project is ready to open. SDOT has just announced that the new Harbor Island offramp from the westbound bridge will open tomorrow. Here’s what’s on the project website:
… on Saturday morning, March 17, the old westbound exit to Harbor Island will be closed and the new off-ramp will open. Signage will direct motorists wishing to take this exit, but it should be noted that the new off-ramp begins east of SR 99, whereas the old-ramp began west of SR 99.
Meantime, the 1st Avenue offramp on the eastbound SSV is still months away. We’ll be adding more project updates from the first meeting of a new informal task force that SDOT promised to form after the communications crisis that complicated a daylong bridge closure in January. SDOT reps at the meeting say the new Harbor Island offramp will open early in the morning – no hard-and-fast time, but as soon as crews are ready, 6 am or so.
ADDED 6:10 PM: SDOT has sent a news release with not only the ramp opening we mentioned, but also a reminder about tonight’s bridge closure and other changes ahead – read on:Read More
The contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation on the Spokane Street Viaduct (the elevated roadway between the West Seattle Bridge and I-5) will close the viaduct to westbound traffic between I-5 and SR 99 on Thursday and Friday nights, March 15 and 16 from 10 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning. This will close direct access to West Seattle via the Spokane Street Viaduct from both northbound and southbound I-5. (Motorists traveling southbound on SR 99 will still be able to access the off-ramp to the West Seattle Bridge.)
Southbound traffic from I-5 wishing to reach West Seattle can detour by exiting I-5 at S Forest Street, turning right (northbound) onto Sixth Avenue S, then turning left (westbound) onto S Lander Street, turning left again (southbound) at First Avenue S, then turning right (westbound) at S Hanford, turning left onto E Marginal Way S, and finally turning right (westbound) onto the lower S Spokane Street roadway and across the swing bridge into West Seattle. Northbound traffic from I-5 wishing to travel to West Seattle should exit the freeway at the Sixth Avenue S off-ramp, and then follow the same detour route outlined above. Detour signs will help motorists follow the designated route.
The Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project will require two overnight closures next week – westbound this time – according to SDOT, which also says the port-built East Marginal Way Grade Separation is finally done and that will bring a permanent surface-traffic change starting Monday. Read on for the full announcement:Read More
WEDNESDAY NOTE: Since publication, this work has been canceled.
ORIGINAL STORY: Just in from SDOT – this will affect eastbound drivers this weekend:
The contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening project will be closing the intersection of First Avenue S at S Spokane Street this coming weekend in order to repave the southern half of the intersection.
The intersection will be closed to all traffic beginning Friday, March 2 at 8 p.m. and will reopen on Monday, March 5, at 5 a.m. The eastbound First Avenue off-ramp from the West Seattle Freeway will also be closed. Motorists wishing to exit to SODO can still use the Fourth Avenue off-ramp, which provides motorists the option of then driving either north or south on Fourth Avenue S.
Southbound traffic on First Avenue S will be detoured west at S Hanford Street. Northbound traffic on First Avenue S will be detoured east at S Dawson Street, and then north on Fourth Avenue S.
One week after our in-depth update on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project – which has been closing the east end of the West Seattle Bridge most weeknights lately – there’s a milestone of sorts: Crews are starting to install long-delayed steel girders that SDOT said had been holding up the new 1st Avenue South on/offramp. Brad tipped us off via Twitter:
@westseattleblog You might already know this, but … they’re re-starting work on the 1st ave s onramp. A sight for sore eyes.
— brad nelson (@bradnelson) February 15, 2012
Before stopping nearby for the photo you see above, we sent an inquiry to SDOT, asking if the resumption of work meant those girders were finally arriving. Spokesperson Rick Sheridan‘s reply:
You are correct. The installation of the steel girders for the First Avenue S on- and off-ramp is now underway.
The contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project began this week installing the steel girders necessary for constructing the First Avenue S on- and off-ramp. The installation is taking place during the night.
After much delay, half of the girders required for the ramp arrived from their source in Montana and the contractor expects it will take several weeks to install these. The other half of the girders has not yet arrived. With the full installation of these girders, the remaining construction of the ramp can proceed.
The ramp is expected to be available as an offramp sometime this spring – but not as an onramp from 1st until the project is virtually complete, probably late July. Meantime, construction closures continue – the newest update is here – and keep in mind, this is SEPARATE from the project at the WEST end of the WS Bridge, which is the Fauntleroy Expressway Seismic Retrofit Project, responsible for closures of its own (including all day this coming Sunday). That project too should be complete this summer.
(Spokane St. Viaduct work zone, photographed by Long B. Nguyen; click for longer/wider view)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The final phase of work on the Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project will NOT require a lane reduction after all.
We talked with SDOT managers at the Muni Tower downtown this afternoon, following up on last week’s announcement at the Alaskan Way Viaduct South Portal Working Group meeting that the work on the east end of the West Seattle Bridge would require at least six weeks with one eastbound lane and two westbound lanes (reported here last Thursday).
Since then, SDOT says, they have figured out how to fit two lanes each way onto the new half of the SSV; they say they had been hoping all along to work that out, but it didn’t happen until after that briefing last week.
Right now, traffic in the project area between 99 and I-5 is flowing partly on new construction and partly on old:
In late March, when all traffic is shifted onto the new structure on the north side of the old one, the configuration will look like this:
SDOT also says they have NO daytime closures scheduled currently – neither weekend nor weekday – but reiterate that if any are necessary before the project’s completion in mid-summer, the notification and signage will follow the new guidelines spelled out in a report we brought you here last Friday. It resulted from a review of what happened Saturday, January 28th, with traffic backups much of the day because of what was supposed to be a weekend-long closure of the eastbound SSV, a surprise to many because there was no warning signage either ahead of time or during the shutdown.
We have more to add to this story – about the project’s overall status and some questions that have arisen along the way – but wanted to get this news out first; we’ll add the rest here shortly.
ADDED 6:30 PM: As promised, the rest of the story:Read More
If you had to leave West Seattle for points eastward during the daytime last Saturday, you probably remember the bridge backup caused by what was supposed to be a weekend-long closure of the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct. The city had put out the word in advance, but not loudly and boldly enough, and worst of all in many eyes, there were no warning signs as you approached the bridge. After a deluge of complaints – and questions from us – SDOT promised a review of what went wrong with getting the word out and how that would be fixed for future closures. They also promised us the resulting report. We received it this evening; we’ll be writing a followup story, but there’s no point in you having to wait till then to read the report if you’re interested. It identifies 7 “issues” and how they’ll be addressed. Here’s the 2 1/2-page report, in memo form (PDF).
P.S. **No West Seattle Bridge closures scheduled this weekend**, once tonight’s eastbound SSV and Fauntleroy Expressway closures end by 5 am (the nighttime closures continue next week).
We checked back with SDOT to ask where they’re at on the promised plan for how to make sure you have more notice of future major bridge closures like last weekend’s eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct closure, which backed up traffic in a big way for most of Saturday, but wasn’t mentioned on electronic-message signs (like the one at right, photographed Saturday by Craig). They’re already taking smaller steps – like promoting the mailing list you can join for alerts about the SSV Widening Project (the e-mail signup has always been on the official city info-page, but it used to be buried at the bottom – now it’s at the top). And they’re promising to let everyone know within a day or two what else they’ll be doing in the future to try to reduce the surprise factor. Meantime, as we noted, we’re doing our best to keep daily reminders atop the BIG STORIES list on the WSB sidebar, and when we get advance word of daytime/weekend major closures, we’ll give them a permalink too. (No weekend/daytime closures on the horizon – see the list here.)
3:08 PM: After hours of weekday-magnitude backups (discussed here) on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge because of what was supposed to be a weekend-long closure of the EB Spokane Street Viaduct section – it’s done early, SDOT just announced. They say that section of the bridge is now reopening for full use. There will be one more closure before the weekend is out – 12:01 am to 5 am Monday morning.
3:58 PM: SDOT’s news release, e-mailed, confirming the reopening:
Completing required work early, a contractor for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has now reopened the eastbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct.
The next eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct full closure will occur Monday, January 30, from approximately 12:01 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Motorists heading eastbound will be detoured off the viaduct at either the First Ave S or Fourth Ave S exits, and will be able to use the lower Spokane Street roadway to reach I-5.
If you are driving out of West Seattle late tonight or early tomorrow, note that the eastbound Spokane Street Viaduct section of the bridge will be closed again, 9 pm-5 am. SDOT says the closure will start east of the 1st Avenue South offramp, so you will be able to use that exit or 99, but not 4th, Columbian Way, or I-5. The same closure is planned tomorrow night and for the entire weekend ahead, from Friday night 9 pm through Monday morning 5 am – and every weeknight for two weeks after that. SDOT has details here.
Some of the big SDOT projects had to change schedule because of the snow/ice – and the first rescheduling news is in:
The overnight closure of the eastbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct, previously scheduled for January 19, has been rescheduled for tonight, Monday, January 23. The travel lanes will be closed from 9 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, and will be closed from just east of the First Avenue S off-ramp to I-5. The First Avenue S off-ramp will remain open during the closure, with motorists able to use the eastbound S Spokane Street lower roadway as a detour to access I-5 or onto Columbian Way S.
The eastbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct will also be closed on Thursday evening, January 26, from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Friday morning. Again, the First Avenue S off-ramp will remain open during this closure. Also on Thursday night from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. Friday morning, Sixth Avenue S will be closed at the north side of the intersection with S Spokane St. Traffic traveling east on S Spokane St or north on Sixth Avenue S will still be able to access the I-5 on-ramps or Columbian Way S.
Finally, the same eastbound lanes of the Spokane Street Viaduct will also be closed this coming weekend, Friday, January 27 from 9 p.m. until Monday morning, January 30, at 5 a.m. During the weekend closure, either the First Avenue S off-ramp or the Fourth Avenue Loop ramp will remain open, permitting motorists to use the eastbound S Spokane Street lower roadway to reach either the I-5 ramps or Columbian Way S.
These eastbound lane closures will enable the contractor working for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to remove the zipper barrier that has separated east and westbound traffic on the old structure and to shift the eastbound travel lanes from the south side of the existing structure to the north side, the first of a number of traffic shifts occurring over the next few months. The lane shift is needed in order to begin the repair and repaving of the old structure.
Remember, the Spokane Street Viaduct is the official name for the section of West Seattle Bridge between 99 and I-5.
As we’ve done with previous projects, we took a drive on the newly opened lanes of the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct, particularly for those who commute home via I-5 or Beacon Hill to the West Seattle Bridge and might be interested in a preview. As SDOT warned, the lanes are narrower, and they’ve reduced the speed limit. From their announcement, here’s what’s next:
Following this initial traffic shift, the contractor will connect the old and new structures, construct a new center median between the old and new structures, and install new lighting in the median. Over the next few months, eastbound traffic will be shifted from the south side to the north side of the old structure so that the contractor can begin demolition of the existing south barrier. This spring, eastbound traffic will be temporarily moved over to the new viaduct so that the old bridge deck can be repaired and repaved.
If you’ve missed previous mentions – the 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the westbound side won’t be “fully open” till the project is done next summer, according to what SDOT told us recently. Meantime, there are no current changes to the eastbound direction – except that the new temporary configuration means a lot more distance between westbound and eastbound traffic (which you may recall used to have no separation at all!).
Just got word from SDOT about a “milestone” they’re planning overnight tonight during another construction closure of the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct:
Westbound traffic on the Spokane Street Viaduct will be shifted onto the newly constructed bridge deck tomorrow morning, December 23, in advance of the morning commute, marking a major milestone in this multi-year project. The new structure, built adjacent to the current structure, will nearly double the width of the viaduct, adding 41 feet.
Motorists will find the shift to be seamless, maintaining the current two lanes of traffic in each direction; however, the posted travel speed for westbound traffic will be temporarily reduced to 25 miles per hour (down from 35 miles per hour) until the project is completed this coming summer. The remaining construction work requires westbound travel lanes to be narrower than standard lane widths. This, in addition to the presence of construction vehicles entering and exiting travel lanes, requires a lower travel speed for driver safety.
Following this initial traffic shift, the contractor will connect the old and new structures, construct a new center median between the old and new structures, and install new lighting in the median. Over the next few months, eastbound traffic will be shifted from the south side to the north side of the old structure so that the contractor can begin demolition of the existing south barrier. This spring, eastbound traffic will be temporarily moved over to the new viaduct so that the old bridge deck can be repaired and repaved. At that point, eastbound traffic wishing to exit to SODO will still be able to do so, using either the First Avenue S off-ramp or the Fourth Avenue S loop ramp exit.
As we reported previously, the new 1st Avenue South on/offramp on the westbound side is not expected to “fully” open before next summer.