Bertha is slated to start digging again on April 29 meaning the viaduct will be closed for two weeks, forcing drivers onto neighboring roads and freeways. It is expected to considerably slow down Seattle roads more so than usual during commute times.
“The closure is expected to last approximately two weeks. It might take a little bit longer, it might take a little bit less time,” said David Sowers, deputy administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.
The viaduct will close between South Spokane Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel. The hope is for it to re-open after May 13, but officials note that the two-week timeframe is an estimate.
The viaduct is closing as Bertha digs a distance of 350 feet underneath it — crews plan to travel about 30 feet a day. To do this, contractors will work two 12-hour shifts daily, making construction a non-stop job. Bertha will be digging a mere 15 feet underneath the viaduct’s deepest supports.
“It’s very close and that’s why this is a precautionary measure,” Sowers said.
That means the nearly 90,000 vehicles and 30,000 bus passengers that use the viaduct daily will be finding alternate routes through downtown Seattle. Drivers on other area roads can expect heavier traffic during this time, but that’s not the only byproduct of the closure that is to be expected. Parking on select roads surrounding the viaduct will be closed to allow for more capacity on those streets. Parking under the viaduct will also be unavailable to drivers.
Officials with WSDOT and SDOT are encouraging drivers to commute into Seattle without their cars during the closure, this means transit. King County Metro is adding 22 extra buses to the 12 routes that travel along the viaduct. Metro is also adding five extra round trips to its Vashon route, and is providing extra parking at those docks with connector shuttles.
“When we closed the viaduct for nine days in 2011, we saw significant congestion on Seattle city streets and nearby highways,” Sowers said. “We’ll do everything we can to ease congestion, but, unfortunately, there’s no way to close a major highway without disrupting traffic.”
“We understand this closure will be a major inconvenience for many drivers, but we need their help to keep traffic moving,” Sowers added. “We will all get through this together if everyone starts the planning process now and adjusts their commutes.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation is recommending certain alternatives to using the viaduct, including:
• New ways to commute: The recently opened Sound Transit University Link Extension can take commuters from the University District to downtown in eight minutes. In addition, Seattle’s new First Hill Streetcar can carry more commuters to downtown.
• Alternatives to driving: Take the bus with King County Metro. Share a ride in a carpool, vanpool or van share.
• Explore other transit options using the Puget Sound Trip Planner. Remember that while taking transit is a great alternative to driving, buses are expected to be crowded during the closure.
• Take the water taxi: King County Water Taxi is adding extra trips to and from Vashon Island to Colman Dock. There will be additional parking in West Seattle for the water taxi’s new, larger-capacity boat.
• Work from home: Many employers offer options to work from home. Even teleworking one day a week will help ease congestion.
• Adjust the work schedule: If possible, adjusting a work schedule can help avoid the longer commutes. Rush hours will start earlier and end later than normal. Use WSDOT’s travel tools or SDOT’s traveler information page to plan your trips.
• Consider biking or walking for the last part of a trip into downtown to avoid the heaviest congestion