Seattle commuters: Alaskan Way Viaduct expected to remain closed through next week

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Map courtesy WSDOT

The tunneling machine Bertha is more than one-third of the way through its 385 foot journey under Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct. However, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) still estimates the closure of the elevated roadway between South Spokane Street and the south end of the Battery street tunnel will last approximately two weeks.

“We thank everyone who has changed their commute,” Dave Sowers, WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct deputy program administrator, said. “And we thank our partner agencies that are all working not only in real-time, but around the clock to address traffic problems as they arise.”

WSDOT provided an update on how the closure appears to be impacting traffic flows during the morning and evening commutes so far:

Traffic synopsis

Highways – a regional effect
Morning commute

  • The northbound commutes into Seattle have experienced very heavy congestion. Northbound I-5, State Route 167, State Route 18 and Interstate 405 have all experienced long delays as drivers try to find alternate routes into the city.
  • Fewer vehicles are making the trek from Everett to Seattle in the morning. As a result, the north end commute is starting at its normal time, and while still heavy, resembles a typical morning commute.

Afternoon commute

  • Southbound I-5 into Seattle is experiencing earlier delays in the afternoon.
  • WSDOT Incident Response Teams are always on duty and working closely with WSDOT’s traffic management center and emergency responders to clear incidents as quickly as possible.

Seattle City Streets

  • The Seattle Department of Transportation has adjusted signal lights and created more space for buses by removing parking on busy arterial streets.
  • SDOT incident response teams have more than doubled their responses on the first three weekdays of the closure to work to clear accidents quickly.
  • Fourth Avenue has seen some of the most challenging backups with many more cars and buses trying to head into the city.
  • Bike ridership for Monday reached record high numbers. More than 5,000 bike riders crossed the Fremont Bridge – the highest count so far this year. More than 2,500 riders crossed the Southwest Spokane Street Swing Bridge – more than double an average weekday, and the highest count since this bike lane opened in 2013.

King County water taxi

  • King County water taxi service is experiencing record numbers.
  • 13,750 water taxi riders traveled to and from West Seattle April 29 through May 3, compared to 4,100 over the same period last week.
  • There is still parking in West Seattle for commuters at Pier 2, with a connecting shuttle available.

Buses

  • Early information suggests a 2 to 7 percent increase in ridership on Metro’s Rapid Ride C, D and E Lines.
  • Standby buses added 74 trips and carried 2,200 riders April 29 through May 1.

Trains

  • Preliminary estimates are that light rail ridership increased 10 percent and Sounder ridership increased 20 percent above normal weekday commutes.
  • Sound Transit has added rail cars to its Sounder north commuter line and has increased the number of three-car light rail trains operating during peak hours.

WSDOT continues to urge commuters who have made changes to keep using alternative means to get to work, and for those who have not made changes to consider doing so, as traffic remains challenging throughout the Puget Sound Region.

Viaduct closure commuter tips

  • Take the bus, train, or water taxi to work. Bus commuters should check to see the changes in place for routes that normally use the viaduct.
  • Commuters can ride free in a vanpool during the 99 closure that has an available seat under the Ticket to Ride program.
  • Bike to work.
  • Adjust your work hours or work from home.
  • Have a backup plan for picking up and dropping off children at daycare and after-school activities.
  • Know before you go – using WSDOT’s travel tools or SDOT’s travelers information page.

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