CHOKEPOINTS

Realign99: The countdown to Seattle’s longest-ever highway closure

Nov 15, 2018, 12:45 PM

We’re quickly closing in on the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as workers begin preparing for what will be the longest highway closure in Seattle’s history.

RELATED: How traffic will work after Seattle’s SR 99 tunnel opens

Dubbed “Realign99” by the city, closures for the project begin Jan. 4, 2019, when the southbound off-ramp at South Atlantic Street will be shut down. Then, the big stuff kicks off when the viaduct closes for good on Jan. 11.

Before the new SR 99 tunnel is operational, Seattle will see roughly three weeks of closures to realign the highway into the tunnel. After the tunnel opens to drivers, it will take another two weeks to finish construction for the northbound off-ramp to Alaskan Way and South Dearborn Street.

The Realign99 checklist is extensive, with a good deal of work involving the tearing down of detour routes. Sections of SR 99 to the north and south of the tunnel that drivers use today are actually temporary detour roads that will need to come down before the tunnel opens

After those detours are removed, ramps that were buried need to be unburied.

“Years ago, Seattle Tunnel Partners built the on and off-ramps to the tunnel,” said WSDOT Deputy Administrator David Sowers, in a recent video breaking down the construction. “But those ramps were located in the footprint of where the detour now is — now that the detour is coming out, they will take all that material out, open those ramps up, and then make those connections into the tunnel.”

KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan was on-site at the tunnel Thursday morning to see for himself how things are coming along.

Today, the Alaskan Way Viaduct sees roughly 90,000 drivers a day, making for what’s sure to be some serious congestion in downtown Seattle once it shuts down for Realign99. During the closure period beginning Jan. 11, WSDOT asks that drivers shift travel times to avoid busy hours, bike or walk instead of driving, join a carpool, take public transit, or stay off the downtown roads altogether.

RELATED: SR 99 tunnel is built, so why can’t we use it yet?

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Realign99: The countdown to Seattle’s longest-ever highway closure