SEATTLE -- Q13 News is looking ahead to what will happen after the three-week closure period for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. WSDOT officials say after the closure, the new State Route 99 Tunnel will open to drivers for the first time.
When work crews are done re-aligning the highway and opening new ramps, the new 99 Tunnel will open to thousands of commuters and bring some much-needed traffic relief.
This weekend during the viaduct closure, WSDOT says it’ll begin working to connect the new South Dearborn Street to the tunnel’s portal near Pioneer Square and the stadiums. South Dearborn Street will be connected to First Avenue South and paved so that drivers can begin using the tunnel.
Officials say when the tunnel opens in about three weeks, they plan to closely monitor its operation.
“Once the tunnel is open, we don’t just stop and ignore everything. We continue to work with fire and police, continue to develop plans and change plans,” said Morgan Balogh with WSDOT Regional Traffic Operations.
Viaduct administrators say drivers can expect delays for a few weeks even after the new two-mile tunnel opens. The exits and entrances for the tunnel will move north near Seattle Center and south near the stadiums but not all of the tunnel’s exits will be open to traffic right away.
“Our transportation center is going to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s where we monitor traffic situations through our cameras and other data collection devices,” said Heather Marx, SDOT's Director of Downtown Mobility.
After the tunnel opens, drivers will use it for free. Toll fees have not been announced yet but they’re expected to begin sometime in May.
WSDOT also says it’ll have a 17-person crew monitoring the tunnel at least four days a week to ensure its systems are operating properly.