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Originally published November 28, 2013 at 6:22 PM | Page modified November 28, 2013 at 9:25 PM

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Apple Cup, holiday shoppers equal Montlake traffic headaches

The thousands of holiday shoppers and football fans converging on Montlake on Friday portends big traffic trouble in and around the University District.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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When Black Friday collides with the Apple Cup, the forecast calls for pain.

The tens of thousands of holiday shoppers and football fans converging on Montlake on Friday portends big traffic trouble in and around the University District.

“We’ve never had a Huskies game and Black Friday on the same day,” said Peg Nielsen, a city transportation spokeswoman. “Couple that with the holidays, it’s going to be difficult to say exactly what might happen.”

Complicating the already-anticipated heavy traffic volumes and delays is the fact that Metro Transit will be operating on a limited holiday schedule. That means the standard fleet of added buses and expanded service typically deployed for Huskies games won’t be fully available.

“We have a reduced service on Friday because we historically see the reduction in demand for transit on that day,” Metro spokesman Jeff Switzer said.

Some 70,000 people are expected at Husky Stadium for the 12:30 p.m. kickoff of Friday’s Apple Cup — the regular season finale for the hometown Washington Huskies and their cross-state rivals, the Washington State Cougars.

The battle for in-state gridiron bragging rights takes place less than a mile down Montlake Boulevard from University Village, where retailers are bracing for Black Friday frenzy to kick off this year’s holiday shopping season.

So, with a recipe for bigger-than-usual crowds and game-day road closures on the menu, how will the shopping center deal with potential traffic nightmares?

U-Village marketing director Leanne Strohmeier didn’t say Wednesday, telling a reporter via email she wasn’t able to respond to questions before her office closed for the holiday.

But UW officials were taking the expected traffic impact in stride.

“There’s no way to get 70,000 people to this corner of Seattle without impacting traffic,” said Norm Arkans, associate vice president for media relations. “For sure, University Village is going to be impacted. There’s just no way to avoid that.”

The collision of crowds along Montlake is but one event among a laundry list of in-city happenings expected to give Seattle traffic headaches this weekend. Several holiday marathons, the Macy’s day-after-Thanksgiving parade and the downtown holiday tree lighting and fireworks show are likely to draw crowds numbering into the tens of thousands, city officials said.

City transportation planners issued traffic advisories earlier this week to give the public advance warning of activities likely to snarl traffic flows, while Metro issued alerts to remind riders about limited service and altered routes.

The university’s standard game-day traffic plan will be in place for the Apple Cup, Arkans said, even though the game won’t land on a typical Saturday game day. Because classes won’t be in session Friday, the day effectively will be a Saturday, he said.

The game-day traffic plan includes standard restrictions to close Montlake Boulevard between Northeast 45th Street and Northeast Pacific Street after the game, until all attendees have cleared Husky Stadium’s parking lots.

“But beyond having our plan in place,” Arkans said, “there’s not really much we can do.”

Metro’s reduced operations mean normal Park & Ride, Husky Special and regular Metro bus routes typically used by game fans won’t be fully available. But typical Park & Ride bus service will be replaced with a special Apple Cup Shuttle Service that will operate in the same fashion but from different parking lots around King County.

For more information about transit changes and to register for the shuttle service in advance, fans are asked to visit the UW’s athletics department website at www.gohuskies.com.

Arkans said he assumes “some people who wanted to go out shopping to University Village on Friday are going to think twice about competing with football traffic.”

But Fran Bigelow, owner of Fran’s Chocolates and a proud UW alum, said her gourmet chocolate store welcomes the anticipated flood of footballers and shoppers.

Fran’s will be stocked with purple-and-gold boxes of salted caramels specially made for Husky fans. And Santa will be an in-store fixture through Christmas Eve.

“With all the traffic, it’ll be tough — busy for sure,” Bigelow said of Friday’s outlook for her U-Village store. “But I think everybody is ready for the whole holiday madness to start.”

Lewis Kamb: lkamb@seattletimes.com or (206) 464-2932. Twitter: @lewiskamb



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