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Highway 99, Alaskan Way Viaduct
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Seattle to tweak signals in real-time during Hwy 99 closure

(WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

We cannot underscore just how significant the traffic congestion in Seattle will be when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes for good on January 11. The entire Highway 99 corridor through Seattle will be out of commission, but there are changes coming even beforehand.

On Dec. 14, the Washington Department of Transportation will shorten the bus-only lane on northbound Highway 99 by about 1,400 feet. The shortening will happen at the south end, where the lane begins along the Port of Seattle.

Also on Dec. 14, the state will shorten the right turn lane to Harrison Street on southbound Highway 99. This is near the north portal to the new tunnel. The state will also reduce the lane widths in that entire area.

On Jan. 4, the ramp to northbound Highway 99 near the stadiums will close.

Heather Marx, the City of Seattle’s director of downtown mobility, said losing Highway 99 will impact just about everyone, and her agency is already preparing.

“We’re going to monitor, manage and adapt our existing transportation system in real time,” Marx said. “Our transportation operations center is now operating 24/7 so that we can make those signal changes on the fly.”

The city is also putting a priority on keeping the public right-of-way open. You should expect fewer lanes blocked because of construction during those three weeks.

“We are limiting permits during this time of closure so that construction projects are less able to use the public right-of-way for construction to maximize the space for the traveling public,” Marx said.

The city can only do so much. A lot of how the city gets through this time will be up the traveling public — private and public employees. Find a bus. Find a carpool buddy. Telecommute. Off-shift if you can. Any little bit will help.

You should give these options a try over the next month so you aren’t making your first attempt at an alternate plan on January 11.

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