Alaskan Way Viaduct Closure Survival Guide
SEATTLE -- The 65-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct closed forever at 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 and WSDOT officials say the ensuing traffic impacts will be significant and long-lasting, especially in the three-week gap before the new Waterfront Highway 99 tunnel opens.
Here at KOMO, we're ready to help get you through the potential gridlock, starting with real time traffic information, courtesy of Waze:
Live Twitter Feed from Seattle-area traffic sources:
Seattle area traffic cameras:
Other Web Links to Help:
- WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct Closure / #ReAlign99 Information
- King County Metro #ReAlign99 Frequently Asked Questions
- Seattle SDOT Traffic Cameras and Travel Times | SeattleDOT "Seattle Squeeze" Info
- WSDOT Seattle-area Traffic Map & Traffic Cameras
- Available Truck Routes during SR-99 Closure
- Seattle-area Traffic Travel Times
- Current I-405 Express Toll Charges
- CommuteSeattle Portal
- Statewide Travel Alerts
- What Happened During 2016's 10-Day Closure?
- King County Park & Ride Info
- King County Metro "Get Ready" Page
- Free Waterfront Shuttle Info
- WSDOT brochure handout on street closures for #ReAlign99
- Preview SR-99 Closure
- Previous KOMONews.com stories on Viaduct Closure
- WSDOT YouTube Videos on SR-99 Closure
- Kitsap Transit Trip Planner
Frequently Asked Questions (Supplied by WSDOT and KOMO News)
What exactly is happening?
Once the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes at 10 p.m. on Jan. 11, there will be three weeks with no SR-99 option to get through Downtown Seattle. WSDOT crews will use those three weeks to realign the roadway at the north and south end of the new waterfront tunnel to connect to the existing SR-99 roadway. That means tens of thousands of cars that used to use SR-99 to get through town will have to find another way.
Some ramp closures actually begin on Jan. 4 -- the northbound SR 99 on-ramp at South Royal Brougham Way and the southbound SR 99 off-ramp at South Atlantic Street will both at 10 p.m. to allow crews to get a head start. Also, the new northbound off-ramp to downtown just south of the tunnel will take up to two additional weeks to complete and open after the rest of the closure ends, WSDOT officials said.
What are the best routes to take if I'm going to brave driving in?
With hovercars and personal helicopters likely right out, you'll have to find your way through the maze with all the other drivers. DOT officials aren't setting any official detour routes because the obvious is just to take I-5, which as you might expect is probably going to be more crowded than usual, which is already pretty crowded.
If you're going to try for surface streets, the best north and south options are First, Fourth and Sixth Avenues. Don't forget you can't use Third Avenue - that's reserved for transit.
But WSDOT and city officials are REALLY hoping you'll find another way in to town instead of driving.
Their top suggestion is to telecommute if possible, or work a partial day schedule that avoids the peak rush hour travel times of 6-10 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. King County's WorkSmart program has ways to help employers let their employees telecommute. Or perhaps look into coworking options.
If you're coming in from the North End, Snohomish County residents could opt for taking the Sounder commuter train which has four daily trains that begin in Everett and have stops in Mukilteo and Edmonds before heading into Seattle. Northern King County residents can opt to take the Link Light Rail from the University of Washington into the city. Bus service is available, but it'll be crowded and may have unusually long travel times due to the increased traffic congestion. (MORE | North End Bus Change Routes) .
South End commuters can take Link Light Rail which begins at Angle Lake near SeaTac and has stops in Tukwila, Rainier Valley and SoDo before coming into Seattle. Or you can take the Sounder too, which starts in Lakewood and stops in Tacoma, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila before coming into Seattle. Again, buses are an option, but will be crowded and will be subject to traffic congestion. (MORE | Changes to South End Metro bus routes).
There are 130 park and ride lots in Metro's service area -- find them here, including which ones are served by downtown Seattle bus routes: But Park & Ride lots are expected to fill quickly, so perhaps look into bicycling or having someone drop you off than try to park.
Those in West Seattle can also opt for the Seattle Water Taxi, which will add a second boat during the SR-99 closure. It's a 10 minute ride from Seacrest Park and 22 minutes from Vashon and boats leave from West Seattle every 20 minutes.
One last ride on the viaduct: Long-time West Seattle resident Theron Zahn drove across Thursday morning to take in one last view of the city:
What happened last time the viaduct closed?
Seattle has sort of been through this before -- the viaduct was closed for 10 days in the spring of 2016 as a precaution when the big boring machine "Bertha" was digging the tunnel under the viaduct. During this closure, the Battery Street Tunnel and its associated ramps were still open.
As you'd expect the commute started earlier and lasted longer, Metro bus ridership increased, Seattle Water Taxi use tripled, and Sounder commuter rail had a 15 percent increase in ridership.
WSDOT put together a series of handy charts showing how and when all of the major roadways in the region saw spikes in traffic compared to the average weekdays before and after the closure.
On the freeways, Eastside commuters saw the greatest increase in travel times from Bellevue to Seattle on the floating bridges.
In the city, Alaskan Way and First Avenue saw significant jumps in traffic:
WSDOT warns that Seattle's population has grown another 40,000 since that event.
How does the new tunnel change the way SR-99 gets through Seattle?
WSDOT has put together 4 handy videos showing how the new on-ramps and off-ramps will work on both the north and south side of the tunnel.
Driving north and south through the tunnel:
Getting to and from SR-99 from the north and south sides of Seattle:
Then what happens to the Viaduct?
Once the tunnel opens WSDOT crews will begin demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct in February -- a process that is expected to take about six months.
Once the viaduct is gone, a new Alaskan Way Surface street will be built in its place.
Free Waterfront Shuttle Expands Hours During 99 Shutdown
The Free Waterfront Shuttle is expanding operating hours to better serve morning commuters. The shuttle will add morning service to its North/South loop weekdays starting at 6 a.m. on Jan. 7 and will run until 8 p.m. Additionally, all shuttles are now equipped with real-time arrival information that can be found online along with other shuttle information at DowntownSeattleParking.com/Shuttle.
Local deals to help navigate the "Seattle Squeeze"
Both Uber and Lyft will offer a $2.75 discount the cost of a transit ticket -- on all shared rides from 10 select transit centers through Feb. 15, including transit centers in Burien and Northgate, South Park/Delridge Park & Ride, the West Seattle Taxi, and the Columbia City, Othello, Mt. Baker, Rainier Beach, Tukwila Int'l Blvd. and Univ. of Washington stations. Uber also counts the Sea-Tac Airport and Angle Lake light rail stations as well as Beacon Hill.
ReachNow is offering a $3 discount for any ride sharing or car sharing trip that starts or ends at the Northgate Transit Hub or the Link Light Rail stations at Univ. of Washington, Mt. Baker, Columbia City or Othello.
Come celebrate the new tunnel!
Before the new tunnel opens, WSDOT will host a celebration over the weekend of Feb. 2-3 that includes an 8K fun run, a bike ride, and an opportunity to walk through the new tunnel. (MORE | WSDOT's Step Forward celebration)
We'll be updating this page constantly leading up to, and during the closure, so be sure to check back often! In the meantime, perhaps take this week to create a few new jam mixes, investigate just how large a travel mug will fit in your cup holder, and don't forget the hairbrush/microphone for that impromptu solo.