SEATTLE – The Washington State Department of Transportation says now is the time commuters should be reconsidering their drive if they travel through Seattle using the viaduct.
The first round of on and off ramp closures are scheduled to begin this Friday, beginning the first of many changes for commuters coming into the city.
The on and off ramps on the south end of SR-99 will soon shut down – and it could be a taste of what’s to come when the viaduct closes for three full weeks.
“If travelers don’t give themselves extra time to get downtown, you’re going to miss appointments, you’re going to be late to work,” said WSDOT’s David Sowers.
After years of construction and delays, WSDOT and its contractors say they are ready to begin a series of projects to finalize connecting SR-99 to the new underground tunnel but that means drivers will have to begin modifying their commutes beginning Friday at 10 p.m.
“This work that we’re tackling at these ramps allow us to get ahead of that and ensure that we finish the closure in the three weeks that we’ve got allocated,” said Sowers.
The closures on Friday include the on and off ramps on Royal Braugham and Atlantic Streets where drivers get on and off near the stadiums. WSDOT says Friday’s closure impacts as many as 23,000 vehicles each day.
“Those folks who live and work in SoDo will be impacted, and so we’re trying to get that message out to folks,” said Sowers.
Wednesday WSDOT also released a series of new videos explaining how to access the new SR-99 tunnel when its’ scheduled to open in early February.
Coming up Friday, January 11 WSDOT plans to close the viaduct entirely for about three weeks to begin building access to the new tunnel. That means folks currently using the viaduct to exit into downtown via Columbia or Seneca will have to find new routes as these exits will disappear forever.
WSDOT says now is the time to consider asking your employer to telecommute or stagger your shifts to avoid the morning and evening rush hours.
“More than anything we want people to think about discretionary travel: whether they really need to use those routes in those particular times of days,” said Sowers.
While WSDOT says they hope to open the new tunnel in the beginning of February the weather could also play a critical role. If we end up seeing an extended period of snow or super cold weather that timeline could change.