Commuters' viaduct questions still rolling in
Travelers continue to come up with new questions about the nine-day Alaskan Way Viaduct closure that began Friday night and the efforts being made to keep traffic moving. Here are some answers.
Seattle Times transportation reporter
Viaduct closed until Saturday, Oct. 29
THE ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT will close as the state begins replacing the aging structure. Expect major delays on Highway 99, Interstate 5, the West Seattle Bridge and neighborhood streets as drivers are forced to detour. Give yourself extra time for travel.
Project schedule: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, to midday Saturday, October 29. The viaduct was expected to reopen at 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31, but demolition moved faster than planned.
Northbound lanes: Highway 99 from the West Seattle Bridge to South Royal Brougham Way, near the stadiums, will be closed. The northbound onramp near First Avenue South, and northbound lanes of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, are now open 24 hours a day, from Royal Brougham Way to South Lake Union.
Southbound lanes: The portion from the Battery Street Tunnel to the West Seattle Bridge will be closed.
Viaduct closure guide: Interactive and printable maps for driving, bicycling and taking mass transit
The Today File: The latest news on the viaduct closure
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Travelers continue to come up with new questions about the nine-day Alaskan Way Viaduct closure that began Friday night and the efforts being made to keep traffic moving.
Here are some recent questions that we've received, along with the answers. More information can be found at seattletimes.com, where our online chat from Thursday is archived, along with guides for car, bus, rail, ferry and bicycle travel.
Q: Are park-and-ride spaces being added? They tell us to take transit, but the lots are already full.
A: Sound Transit temporarily added 60 spaces in the SeaTac Center Garage, 15221-15245 International Blvd., across the street from the Link light-rail station in Tukwila, whose 600 spaces are usually filled on a typical weekday.
Private lots exist up the line near Othello, Columbia City and Mount Baker stations.
Seattle added 65 temporary park-and-ride spaces at a boat launch just north of the King County Water Taxi dock in West Seattle.
Q: Why is WSDOT closing the northbound onramp next to the Battery Street Tunnel if the demolition is more than a mile away? Opening that ramp would reduce congestion around Pike Place Market.
A: This Highway 99 entry at the corner of Western Avenue and Bell Street will be closed nights and weekends whenever the entire northbound viaduct is closed — and open weekdays and during stadium events, when the northbound viaduct is open north of CenturyLink Field.
Crews need access to do safety inspections and lane striping in the off-hours inside the tunnel, said WSDOT spokesman Travis Phelps.
Q: Your coverage is all about the west- and south-end options. What's it going to be like driving into Seattle from the north?
A: More crowded than usual. Some commuters from Ballard or Greenwood who normally take Highway 99 to Sodo, the airport or Interstate 90 will have to use Interstate 5, which means further delays for its usual travelers.
Feeder streets, including Lake City Way Northeast, also will back up, while Highway 520 queues entering Seattle could extend as far back as Foster Island, said Jim Bak, community relations director for the Kirkland-based INRIX traffic-data company.
Unless travel habits change, speeds will average 20 mph or less as far back as Lynnwood, he predicts. "You'll be able to bicycle on I-5 faster than you can drive it." (Bicycling is still illegal on I-5 in the metro area.)
Q: If the viaduct is being broken apart, can I drive into Seattle from the ferry terminal?
A: Yes. Only the Sodo section south of King Street is being wrecked in this phase of the project. The central-waterfront viaduct stays up until 2016, after a deep-bore tunnel and stadium interchange are ready for traffic. So ferry access will continue, as will pedestrian crossings from Pioneer Square.
Q: Will the state ferries change their unloading plan so drivers arriving at Seattle can head north, instead of being forced to go south into the gridlock?
A: Usually when there are two boats docked simultaneously, the cars from Bremerton unload south, and cars from Bainbridge unload north or uphill into downtown. But ferry officials said Friday they'll try to give motorists a choice of either direction when possible during the viaduct closure. One problem could be added traffic on surface Alaskan Way that blocks vehicles leaving Colman Dock.
Q: Is there any chance the job could get done early?
A: Matt Preedy, the Sodo construction director, has hinted in past news conferences that's possible, though he doubted it would be so early that weekday commuters catch a break. A more plausible goal is to finish by the Oct. 30 Seahawks football game.
Skanska USA, the contractor, has a solid track record, but weather could affect paving or striping. There are no incentives for early completion (besides making overall progress in Sodo), but a $100,000-per-day penalty for being late.
One complication is the demolition strategy.
Except for a full tear-down at the stadiums — to allow a curved, four-year detour road to pass through — only the top deck of the highway to South Holgate Street will be removed for now. This is to reduce risk of concrete columns toppling onto the new viaduct's bridge spans a few feet west, Phelps said.
So the work may take longer than the First Avenue ramp job in February, when subcontractor Rhine Demolition, based in Tacoma, knocked apart the whole structure within minutes.
"We've got to start the demolition and see how it goes," Phelps said. "It's anybody's guess right now."
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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