Viaduct closure next month: Everyone will be affected


by KING 5 News

Posted on September 20, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 20 at 6:21 PM

SEATTLE -- The region's transportation experts really want to hammer a point home to all Seattle drivers about next month's nine-day SR 99 closure: just because you don't drive the viaduct doesn't mean it won't impact your commute.

Between 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 21 and 5:00 a.m. on Monday, October 31, the southern mile of the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct will be torn down. That's 214 hours without one of the most traveled routes into and around downtown Seattle.

The traffic that uses the viaduct daily, around 110,000 cars, should be expected to spill over to other highways, freeways, and even down to the street level. That means longer commutes and added drive time for everyone, no matter where they're going.

"It is the longest single closure that we've had on a major Seattle freeway," warned Matt Preedy, WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct deputy program director at a press conference Tuesday. 

During the nine days, here's exactly what will be closed:

  • Northbound SR 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and South Royal Brougham Way, 24 hours a day for the full nine days
  • Southbound SR 99 between the Battery Street Tunnel and West Seattle Bridge, 24 hours a day for the full nine days
  • Northbound SR 99 will be closed sporadically between the South Royal Brougham Way on-ramp and the Battery Street Tunnel. It will be OPEN only from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and for special events at CenturyLink Field

Automatically, the closure means large swaths of West Seattle, Georgetown, South Park, White Center and Burien will be severely cut off from main routes into downtown in other parts of the region. Commuters in neighborhoods north of the viaduct, like Magnolia and Ballard, could also see increased congestion on alternate routes like Dexter Avenue and Mercer Street.

"It's going to be stressful," said Lynne McWhorter, who lives in Magnolia and commutes to downtown Seattle each day.  "It's going to create stress and a lot of idling cars."

Still, all neighborhoods, clear over to the Eastside, north and south of Seattle should anticipate this closure having an impact on their traffic.

"Because SR 99 is such a vital link in the network of roadways in this area, when we close this down it's going to have ripple effects onto I-5, it's going to have ripple effects maybe clear over to I-405," said Preedy.

What to do instead of driving 99

Public transit, biking, working from home, or temporarily relocating with friends and family are a few options for the drivers who take the viaduct on a regular basis.

Metro is adding 51 new trips to routes near the viaduct, while rerouting several routes that will be affected by the 9-day closure. Still, passengers should prepare for longer bus rides.

"The real message here is plan for a doubling of your travel time," said Christina O'Claire, senior transportation planner for Metro Transit.  "We will do the best we can do in this time period."

King County Metro: Increased routes have been added in anticipation for the closure -

Sound Transit: Buses for travelers going anywhere from Snohomish to King to Pierce counties -

Sounder Train: Routes run from Tacoma to Seattle (with stops in Auburn, Puyallup, Kent, Tukwila, etc.) and Everett to Seattle -

Link Light Rail: Central Link and Tacoma Link offer options for drivers in Tacoma and around Seattle -

Community Transit: For Snohomish County riders -

Water Taxi: For people in West Seattle who just want to jump across the water to downtown -

Ride Share: Carpooling may make a huge comeback during the closure, King County Metro is offering rewards for frequent ridesharers -

KING 5's Lindsay Chamberlain and Joe Fryer contributed to this report