The nightmarish backup was due to a nasty two-car crash at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday that sent three people to the hospital on Highway 99. The southbound lanes of Highway 99 were then closed for six hours starting at the Battery Street Tunnel for the crash investigation, and that became the catalyst that started the snail's pace for the evening commute.
The horror stories piled up one after another as the backups continued for more than five hours.
In fact, the mess was the No. 1 conversation on social media Tuesday night. People were desperate to know what forced them to become prisoners in their cars or buses.
The accident caused miles and miles of backups up through downtown Seattle, Queen Anne and beyond. Adding to the traffic woes: a Seattle Mariners game against the rival New York Yankees at 7 p.m. Seattle Mariners P.A. announcer Tom Hutyler tweeted it took him 93 minutes to get from Seattle Center to Safeco Field.
Drivers now are demanding answers on how the state plans to handle these situations with the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project ongoing and way behind schedule.
"There would have to be coordination with (King County) Metro to see if they could pick up that slack," says Todd Trepanier of the state Department of Transportation.
But Metro could not pick up the slack last night. One bus driver told KOMO News she sat stuck for a total of two hours - all her passengers got off the bus and walked.
Metro did re-route about a dozen bus routes and tried pushing people over to the West Seattle water taxi.
Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson also tells KOMO News the agency has protocols for pulling in partners to help in these extreme situations, including the city of Seattle's Transportation Department.
Meanwhile, drivers said whatever was done fell far short of what was needed.
"I've been here over an hour. ... Yeah, in fact I just came off the hill," said one driver at the height of the backup.
"I just want to go home and we're never gonna get home. We're about to run out of gas," said another frustrated driver.
Highway 99 was finally reopened for traffic at about 7:30 p.m.