First responders believe response times may suffer during viaduct closure

SEATTLE – So how are first responders going to handle the crush of commuters once the viaduct is closed?

A three-week long viaduct closure is all new territory. The viaduct closed for a short time in 2016 but officials have never had to deal with a similar closure that’s coming next week.

First responders also say they are not sure exactly sure what to expect when commuters pile into downtown streets.

“It’s going to be adjusted constantly on the fly,” said SPD’s assistant chief Steve Hirjak.

They’re not exactly winging it – first responders say they’ve been planning for the viaduct closure for weeks.

“Obviously every second counts so our goal is to stay the same,” said Hirjak. “We’ll find out next week exactly how the first’ week’s impact is.”

The Seattle police and fire departments say they will be using 2nd and 4th Avenues as north to south response corridors – they have also identified eight east-west corridors between Denny and Yesler.

“In the event of an emergency we will likely be using the 3rd Avenue bus lanes,” said SFD’s deputy chief Ron Mondragon.

But officials are being realistic, saying the congestion could make response times longer.

“Our response times may be impacted by congestion during this historic event,” said Mondragon.

Also, in the event of minor fender benders and illegal parked cars, Seattle police says tow trucks will be staging nearby and will get a police escort to help keep traffic flowing and give other emergency responses a high priority.

“If you’re in an accident and you’re not hurt and your car can move, please get it out of the road,” said Hirjak.

But the truth is, dealing with a three-week long viaduct closure will be all all-new reality for transportation officials and first responders.

“Of course, none of us here really know what it’s going to be like next week,” said Hirjak.

Seattle police says it will have a commander inside the city’s traffic operations center working with other agencies to figure out in real time what’s working and what isn’t.