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Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct to close in January 2019

(WSDOT)

The replacement tunnel for the Alaskan Way Viaduct through Seattle will open in early 2019, slightly delayed from most recent estimates.

RELATED: Preparing to close the viaduct, open the SR 99 tunnel

Seattle expected that the Alaskan Way Viaduct would close before the end of the year. The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Monday that the viaduct will now close on Jan. 11, prompting a six-week traffic disruption before the new tunnel can open.

“There was a lot of optimism over the last year or so that we could achieve that opening date as early as this fall,” said Brian Nielsen with the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “But working with our partners at the City of Seattle, King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the Port, we’ve decided that an early 2019 date is what’s best for Seattle and the community at large.”

When the tunnel does open, it will be a historic event in the state’s transportation history, Nielsen said.

WSDOT officials insist this is not a delay, despite previous expectations that the closure would happen this fall, followed by the tunnel opening before the end of the year.

“Back when the machine broke through, when the machine was disassembled, we said to everybody that it was going to be 2019,” a WSDOT official said Monday at a press conference. “We’ve been working real hard to try to advance that. At the end of the day, it’s 2019. I know somebody’s headline says ‘delayed’ but we don’t view it as that. We don’t view it as a delay.”

After the viaduct closes on Jan. 11, new ramps will be constructed to connect the roadway to the tunnel. That will take roughly three weeks, according to The Seattle Times. That means Seattle will experience weeks of traffic snarls through downtown without a vital connection between south downtown to Seattle center. Nielsen said that Seattle will be forced to change its travel behavior.

Some of the delay from the fall to winter 2019, has to do with Seattle’s rainy season. Rains can affect when paving the new ramps can be done. It is expected that the weather could push back some road work.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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