First morning commute without Alaskan Way Viaduct goes relatively smoothly

Air 4 flies over I-5 south of Downtown Seattle Monday morning (KOMO Photo)

SEATTLE -- It wasn't so much "ViaDoom" though it wasn't exactly "ViaZoom" either as Seattleites dealt with the first morning commute since the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed forever on Friday.

WSDOT traffic officials noted an earlier surge of northbound traffic along I-5, with commute times about double their usual average around 6:15 a.m. It took just over an hour to get from Federal Way to Seattle then.

"Our morning commute started much earlier. Our delays started much earlier. We're really looking across the region at delays of about 20-30 minutes longer than normal," said WSDOT spokesperson Lisa Van Cise.

But by 7 a.m., traffic times were trending back toward normal levels and by 8 a.m., the commute had settled to near typical levels as many commuters had apparently heeded months of warnings to find alternate ways to get work during the closure.

And they'll need to keep those plans in place. Monday was just the first of 15 weekday commutes without an SR-99 option to get through Downtown Seattle as construction crews work to adjust the ramps that connect the old SR-99 approaches to the new Downtown tunnel, set to open in early February. WSDOT officials estimated 90,000 cars used the viaduct every day.

They're warning that just because Morning Commute No. 1 went smoothly, to not abandon your alternate plans for the shutdown.

"Last time the Viaduct was closed, day two commute was awful," WSDOT officials tweeted. "Have a plan and stick to it."

That plan? Use transit, carpools or telecommuting to relieve the pressure on Seattle area roads and highways.

The viaduct closure in 2016 pushed West Seattle commuter Mary Merten to do things different this time around.

“I remember the last time and car pooled with someone through that and it was not pleasant then I know this one is going to be way worse,” she said.

According to traffic data firm Inrix, during the nine-day viaduct closure in 2016 alternative routes through Seattle were overwhelmed.

“We are doing a lot of the same things we did in 2016 but we are doing more of them, we have more people on the ground, we have more vehicles helping through the closure, “said David Sowers with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

>> Find out the latest travel times from your city to and from Seattle. Click or tap 'Travel times' to choose your city to Seattle in the morning and from Seattle in the afternoon and evening.

But Merten, the West Seattle commuter, has gotten creative for this closure. She’s planning to catch the bus. But instead of jumping on near her house, she’s driving to a different stop.

“It will be one of two stops - that’s close to where it starts and then I’d get a seat,” said Merten.

She can take the bus all the way to work in Fremont without a downtown transfer.

“It is all of us making decisions individually that going to make this go well,” said Marx.

That’s why officials say it’s not too late to use another mode of transportation during the longest highway closure in state history.

“I really hope that’s it just three weeks – that’s my hope,” said Merten.

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