‘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

Port Alberni riders compete in Pony Club championships in Courtenay

Two riders earn ribbons at regional competition

Port Alberni contractor earns safety award

Mosaic Forest Management honoured 10 Vancouver Island contractors

Courtenay-Alberni Greens name Sean Wood as federal candidate

Nomination meeting took place June 15 at Hupacasath Hall in Port Alberni

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District approves one cannabis store, denies another

Stores would have been located across the street from one another in Cherry Creek

UPDATED: Taylor Flats wildfire in the Alberni Valley under control

Fire is located close to Highway 4 near Sproat Lake

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Wildfire burning in coastal forest

A fire beside the Sea to Sky Highway is burning up a steep slope

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Canucks acquire forward J.T. Miller from Lightning

J.T. Miller, 26, had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season

Most Read