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New downtown Seattle road opens ahead of Viaduct closure

Some good travel news this Thanksgiving – the Washington Department of Transportation has opened another downtown street, which will play an important role for drivers to access the new SR 99 tunnel when it opens early next year.

The stretch of Sixth Avenue North between Harrison and Thomas – that cars and pedestrians can now access – isn’t even on Google Maps. That means drivers can now use Sixth to connect between Mercer and Denny.

Work to build Sixth Avenue North started in 2012 and now it’s finally done.

WSDOT shared a time lapse of the video that shows the construction frenzy – not just on the road, but also buildings appearing in the skyline.

“It’s sort of crazy how much the neighborhood has changed since we moved here in 2012,” said resident Jontelle Leyson-Smith.

For some, construction is all they remember.

“It’s always been right here since I started working here three years ago,” said Noel Oteng-Mensah, who works downtown.

The work wrapped up just in time for Thanksgiving, adding a brand new stretch of road to downtown Seattle.

“Having more options for commuters to get into the city can only help,” Leyson-Smith said.

Sixth Avenue North used to end at Harrison, then would pick back up at Thomas. Now it’s a through-street that will get drivers from Mercer to Denny.

“Sounds like there’s going to be a lot more traffic around here,” said Matt Smith, who also lives in the area.

They know once the viaduct comes down, before the tunnel opens, many of the 90,000 drivers who use that viaduct will be forced onto surface streets.

And the now-empty Sixth Avenue North will be jam packed.

“I’m definitely not looking forward to carmageddon,” Leyson-Smith said.

WSDOT says Sixth Ave N will also be an important road for downtown drivers to access the southbound tunnel once it opens next year.

The viaduct closes Jan 11 and the tunnel opens sometime in the week of Feb 3.

The tunnel will be free for drivers to use for about six months, then becomes a toll road — ranging between $1 to $2.25, depending on the time of day.

SDOT and the Department of Neighborhoods will host an informational meeting about the coming changes from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Delridge Community Center at 4501 Delridge Way SW.

By Deedee Sun, KIRO 7

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