Durkan and transportation departments give an update on planning for Viaduct closure

This morning, Mayor Durkan and key representatives from SDOT, Metro, and WSDOT delivered a press briefing on the preparations for closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct and moving traffic over to the new SR99 tunnel — and what is being done to ease the expected hellish commutes for the three weeks in between.

Most of the information was the same as what was presented to the City Council earlier this month. The onramps and offramps forthe Viaduct near the stadiums will close on January 4; the entire Viaduct closes on January 11, and the new tunnel opens on February 4 after new onramps and offramps have been connected. But here are some additional notes you might find interesting:

  • Mayor Durkan highlighted that as painful as January will be for commuters, “it will be worth it.” She expects people to be shocked in particular when the constant noise of cars going between the Viaduct and the Battery Street Tunnel suddenly disappears.
  • The Battery Street Tunnel won’t be completely closed between January 11 and February 3; instead, one lane will be kept open to allow traffic to move between Aurora and Western Ave.
  • The weekend of February 2nd and 3rd will feature a celebratory party, a “goodbye to the viaduct/hello to the tunnel” if you will. Most of the events will happen on Saturday the 2nd, including an opportunity to walk through the new tunnel. Of note: February 3rd is Superbowl Sunday; SDOT and WSDOT insisted that they have made plans in advance to ensure that they have enough workers that day. 🙂  You can find the party details at http://99stepforward.com.
  • The speed limit in the new tunnel will be 45 MPH.  Tolling is expected to begin in July or August. Tolls will range between $1.00 and $2.25, depending upon time of day and traffic levels.
  • Along Third Avenue and alone Westlake Avenue in South Lake Union, Metro will be enabling all-door boarding on its buses in March. They will be deploying sidewalk ORCA card scanners at all bus stops in those areas, though initially they may have Metro personnel stationed at the stops with portable scanners (as they are currently doing in the downtown tunnel stations) until the hardware is fully deployed.
  •  Buses currently operating in the downtown tunnel will move to the surface streets on March 23, with the issuance of the spring bus route schedules. The bus routes will be spread across 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Avenue.

The city and WSDOT have a long list of steps they are taking to mitigate the pain of the viaduct closure and to keep traffic moving. They include:

  • The city will be keeping their transportation operations center open 24/7;
  • The city is adding traffic cams and monitoring devices to ensure that they have good data on vehicle movement;
  • The city will have more incident response teams;
  • WSDOT is increasing the use of its I-5 active traffic management system;
  • The city is increasing the real-time data available to third party traffic and mapping apps;
  • The city is deploying temporary dynamic message signs to keep commuters informed;
  • WSDOT will allow all traffic to use the southbound HOV lane from Mercer to Corson;
  • The city is expanding the number of hours when key drawbridges don’t open for ship traffic;
  • SDOT will be restricting on-street parking on some key arterials;
  • Metro will be expanding peak/shoulder transit service. Amazon will also increase its private employee shuttles;
  • Metro will have about 20 extra buses on standby that can serve any Metro route as needed. The city has identified strategic locations to stage those buses so that they can be deployed quickly;
  • Metro intends to be more flexible in rerouting buses in real-time along congested routes, including southbound on Aurora Avenue heading downtown. If buses are rerouted, Metro will use a combination of Transit Alerts, social media, and texts to inform riders. Supervisors in the field will also be able to quickly hang signs at affected bus stops notifying riders about reroutes;
  • The city is doubling water taxi service, and plans to keep the extra service into late March;
  • The city has engaged with employers downtown to make sure that they have plans for their employees’ commute. WSDOT is funding free consultations with Seattle companies through Commute Seattle;
  • “Rideshare” companies such as Uber and Lyft are offering discounts on rides to and from transit stops. The city is also working with the companies to identify pickup and dropoff points, and to reduce the number of drivers circling downtown while they wait for new calls;
  • The city is working with contractors to maximize the right-of-way. They are proactively managing construction scheduled, including expediting permits for street restorations and modifying/revoking permits on key arterials in the lead-up to the closure;
  • The city will be deploying uniformed police officers are key transit intersections to ensure that intersections, transit lanes, and bikes lanes are not blocked and that pedestrians can cross safely;
  • The city is talking with food banks, shelters, and other nonprofits to ensure that the people depending on their services will be able to make it safely there;
  • The city is publishing information materials, which have been translated into several languages. Those materials are being distributed through community centers, libraries, daycare centers, and public schools;
  • The Office of Sustainability and Environment has been developing “green” themed materials as part of the informational campaign, to try to use this as an opportunity to encourage people to make a permanent shift from single-occupancy vehicles to other forms of transportation;
  •  The city is working with “bikeshare” companies to ensure that there are bikes available at every transit station.

Here’s where you can go for more information:

Finally, a pro tip: don’t wait until January 11th to try your new commute route.

One comment

  1. How does this affect the pedestrian overpass from Coleman Dock to 1st Avenue?

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