Viaduct shutdown set for January, longest in Puget Sound history
SEATTLE -- Shortly after we say hello to the new year, Seattle will get to say goodbye to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, triggering the longest major highway closure ever to hit the Puget Sound region.
The viaduct is scheduled to close for good on Jan. 11, 2019 as the first step into opening the new SR-99 waterfront tunnel, WSDOT officials announced Monday. The transition will mean that SR-99 will be closed through Seattle for three weeks, forcing some 90,000 drivers who usually take the viaduct to find another way through the city.
“The opening of the SR 99 tunnel will be an historic event in the state’s transportation history,” Brian Nielsen, administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program, said in a press release announcing the date. “Before we can celebrate, we have to get through an unprecedented closure that will require all of us to change our behavior.”
DOT officials noted that during past Alaskan Way Viaduct closures, congestion increased on all major highways throughout Puget Sound as well as on local streets.
“I'll probably leave earlier when I'm going places. Get up earlier and go to work earlier,” said Mary Patricelli, who lives in West Seattle.
While the viaduct will be closed for good, crews will need about three weeks to shift SR-99 from connecting to the viaduct to the new waterfront tunnel, but officials warn gridlock may linger for up to six weeks.
For drivers heading south, the exit to the stadiums and S. Atlantic Street will close a week before the viaduct shuts down. Those heading north into Downtown, the exit to Alaskan Way and Downtown Seattle will open two weeks after the tunnel as this ramp will take longer to finish.
Those coming from the north will have SR-99 restricted to one lane. The Battery Street Tunnel will remain open, but all drivers will be forced to exit at Western Avenue.
The closure date was pushed back into early 2019 to avoid road closures and gridlock during the holiday season.
"Avoiding a major highway closure between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day helps achieve this goal," the WSDOT said. "There are also fewer major events in early 2019 than there are during the last quarter of 2018."
Dominique Johnson has taken public transit in the past, but isn’t sure it’s her best option during this closure.
“It's a lot harder with a kid now and I think it would be even more difficult with the traffic,” Johnson said.