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Are you prepared for the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure?

The Alaskan Way Viaduct. (WSDOT)

We are only a few short months away from the Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown in Seattle and the transition into the new Highway 99 tunnel under downtown. As with any disruption on Highway 99, drivers can expect massive slowdowns and heavy traffic throughout the region.

RELATED: What should we name the new tunnel under Seattle?

There are no firm dates for the closure of the viaduct yet, but we know it will be shut down in the fall. Highway 99 is heavily relied upon by commuters avoiding I-5 and getting through downtown. One disruption to traffic can ruin nearly every driver’s day. Just think back to the fish truck fiasco or crabpocalypse.

When you lose a major artery into downtown, it puts added pressure on I-5, which puts added pressure on surface streets like First Avenue, Fourth Avenue, or Airport Way South. But those aren’t the only routes that will suffer. The West Seattle Bridge, and on both directions of I-405 and I-90 will feel the affects of this looming closure.

Some ramps will also have to close before the opening of the new tunnel.

“In order to open the tunnel to traffic, our first step is to realign the highway, remove the detours, and direct Highway 99 north and south of the tunnel, into the tunnel,” said Brian Nelson with the tunnel project. “In order to do that, we are going to have to close mainline Highway 99 for a period of about three weeks. We will have to close off ramp to Atlantic Street; that ramp is planned to closed about a week before the start of the mainline closure … that ramp is going to continue to be closed about a week or two after Highway 99 has moved into the tunnel.”

Plan for the viaduct closure now

Drivers adjusted their routes for the closure if Highway 99 back in April 2016, for the Bertha tunneling project. They will have to do the same thing this year to schedule around this closure. It’s never too early to start planning.

Now might be the time to put the bug in your employer’s ear about adjusting your work schedule. Look for opportunities to work from home. Consider taking Sound Transit or King County Metro.

Some drivers say they took vacations during the last closure and are planning on doing the same this time around.

Tunnel update: More work to do

Despite the viaduct closure on the horizon, there is still a lot of work to do to prepare the tunnel for traffic.

Seattle Tunnel Partners has completed building the roads inside the passage and finished the electrical rooms and systems to make the tunnel function.

“Tunnel construction work is basically complete,” Nelson said. “However, there are literally thousands of pieces of equipment that go into the tunnel to direct traffic, manage safety systems, ventilation and fire suppression and the like.”

Nelson said that Seattle Tunnel Partners is in the process of testing and commissioning that equipment. So far, so good.

“Last week, we did the first test of the deluge sprinkler system inside the tunnel,” he said. “Over the course of two minutes, 6,400 gallons of water poured out of the sprinkler heads, onto the roadway.”

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