‘Seattle Squeeze’: City gears up for major highway closure

TheAlaskan Way Viaduct will be replaced by a four-lane tunnel

  • Jan. 9, 2019 1:30 p.m.

Amber light spills out of the tunnel that will shortly become the new Highway 99, as traffic moves along on either side of it on the current Hwy. 99, ahead of an upcoming closure of the older roadway in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A major thoroughfare for commuters along downtown Seattle’s waterfront is set to shut down for good Friday, ushering in what officials say will be one of the most painful traffic periods in the history of the booming city.

The aging, double-decker, 3.5-kilometre Alaskan Way Viaduct, which carries about 90,000 vehicles each day, will be replaced by a four-lane tunnel. Officials say tearing down the viaduct, damaged in a 2001 earthquake, will allow Seattle to reimagine its waterfront with new parks, paths and other amenities.

READ MORE: Vancouver Canucks looking to build rivalry with new Seattle hockey team

But the new tunnel won’t open until about three weeks after the viaduct closes as workers realign the highway into it. A mélange of other construction projects will further constrain traffic in the hilly city surrounded by water, already known for its population growth and traffic woes.

Washington’s transportation agency on its website has a clock counting down to the viaduct closure , which it says will be the longest major highway closure the Puget Sound region has ever seen.

The period between the viaduct’s closure, scheduled for 10 p.m. Friday, and the state Route 99 tunnel opening is already being dubbed the “Seattle Squeeze.”

“It is dramatic,” said Heather Marx, director of Downtown Mobility for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “Everyone travelling in the region will be impacted,” she said, referring to people going to and through the Seattle metropolitan area.

City, King County and state officials have been doing outreach and working to ensure things run as smoothly as possible, like authorities did ahead of Los Angeles’ “Carmageddon” freeway shutdown in 2011. Many feared that dayslong bridge project on one of the region’s most critical freeways would lead to epic traffic jams, but it cruised to a finish ahead of schedule with no significant problems.

During the “Seattle Squeeze,” school bus drivers will start their days earlier, and officials are advising commuters to work from home or adjust their work hours if they can. Those who can’t are being asked to walk, bike, join a carpool or use transit including buses, light rail or water taxis — all to avoid driving solo into downtown during peak commute times.

Tad Donaghe, of West Seattle, usually travels by bus to his downtown job at Nordstrom but has worked out an alternate route involving light rail and water taxi to avoid the anticipated crush of drivers switching to buses during the closure.

“I tried out my #Viadoom commute tonight,” he tweeted Monday, using a popular hashtag related to the closure.

The growth of tech giant Amazon and a population boom has spawned an abundance of construction in the Seattle area in recent years with new housing, light rail expansion and infrastructure development already straining commuters’ patience. Once the tunnel opens, removing the viaduct will take months, which will be followed by the creation of the new downtown waterfront area. Large private projects also in the city’s core include the renovation of a sports arena that will host professional hockey and an addition to the Washington State Convention Center.

Lisa Baumann, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

A sign overhead advises of an upcoming closure of the the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Just Posted

North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame nominations open

Nominations are open for the North Cowichan/Duncan Sports Wall of Fame class… Continue reading

Short-staffed Cowichan Red Arrow fends off JDF

Outnumbered but not outgunned, Cowichan Red Arrow edged out the Juan de… Continue reading

Stakeholders need to ante up more cash to run Lake Cowichan visitors centre: chamber

Increasing costs like wages must be there in black and white for negotiating process

FLASHBACK COLUMN: A possible child thief, abandonment of the CNR rail line, amalgamation on the front burner

The idea of sliding a child through a small space to help with a burglary shocked folks in 1994

Chris Wilkinson column: Nutrition key to you health goals

The Dieticians of Canada have named March Nutrition Month 2019.

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Most Read