Will SODO arena really impact Port traffic?

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by CHRIS DANIELS / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 23, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 23 at 8:43 AM

Concerns have been raised by the Port of Seattle about traffic congestion in the SODO neighborhood if a new NBA/NHL arena is built next to Safeco Field. So, we decided to check what traffic is like now on a typical Seattle Mariners game night.

Our unscientific test started around 4 p.m., right around closing time at Pier 46 and three hours before the first pitch. First Avenue S. was wide open on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, as was Fourth Avenue and Spokane Street, which is a point of concern for freight traffic.

By 5 p.m., there was no visible bottleneck or port-related crowding coming or going. At approximately 5:26 p.m., East Marginal Way appeared to be OK until drivers merged with the West Seattle Bridge. That will be a moot point when the tunnel replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct is built.

What’s not a moot point the lack of an overpass at Lander Street. Rail service stops traffic on a daily basis. One driver says it can be a wait of 10-to-15 minutes. So, we waited about 15-to-20 minutes to see how bad traffic would be and saw no real backup. That was around 6 p.m. with no freight trucks in sight as traffic eased near the stadiums.

Around game time at 7 p.m., traffic was flowing just fine in both directions on First Avenue South.

Attendance for Tuesday's game was 15,604. The new arena would hold approximately 18,000 if sold out.

The Port acknowledges that most weekday container truck traffic ends by 4:30 p.m., but it’s concern is that an arena will prompt more days like the one that will be seen on Wednesday, when the Mariners play in the afternoon and the Sounders play at night.

The NBA and NHL seasons mainly overlap with the NFL season from November to early January, but would also coincide with the start of the baseball and MLS seasons from March through at least April. The overlap could go as late as June if the basketball and hockey teams go deep into the playoffs.

KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report

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