SEATTLE – Get ready for some traffic headaches.
WSDOT closed the on-ramps to SR 99 through downtown Seattle shortly after 10 p.m. Thursday. And then the entire Alaskan Way Viaduct from the Battery Street Tunnel to South Spokane Street shut down shortly after midnight, and it will remain closed as the tunnel-boring machine Bertha finishes digging beneath the structure.
For weeks, WSDOT has been asking commuters to plan ahead for the two-week closure. Not everyone has listened.
“I’ve thought about it, but I haven't prepared for it,” says Rick Lichtenstadter.
He plans to take his normal bus route from the north end into downtown Friday morning. But he’s not sure how early he should leave.
“It goes down I-5, so my concern is about what the backup will be with I-5.”
An analysis by the Kirkland-based traffic data company Inrix says commutes on I-5 could take 50% longer, since many of the 90,000 people who drive the viaduct each day will take the interstate instead.
Some drivers ,such as Arylne from Renton, plan to avoid the interstate and find detours on surface streets.
“My plan is to go up Rainier until I get to Marginal Way, and then go that way to pick up my carpool,” she says.
Arlyne is lucky because she might be able to work from home a few days next week, and she can adjust her schedule.
“Coming in I don't think will be as bad, because I get in early, like 7 a.m.”
WSDOT and SDOT will be staying busy the next two weeks, working around the clock at their traffic control center to try to keep traffic moving.
“If we see a choke point beginning to develop on a street or an on-ramp, WSDOT and SDOT have the ability to change the signal timing and to deploy uniform police officers,” says Alaskan Way Viaduct Deputy Administrator David Sowers. “There’s things we can do to try and alleviate those choke points.”
Lichtenstadter hopes those efforts will work, and his morning commute will go smoothly.
“I’m going to try and see what happens tomorrow,” he says, “and then I’ll figure it out for the rest of the time.”