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Highway 99, Alaskan Way Viaduct
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How you can prepare for the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct

(WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

This is your reminder that we are a little over two weeks away from the Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown, nicknamed Viadoom, or what the Seattle Department of Transportation is calling “Realign99.”

Check out MyNorthwest’s Viadoom hub here

During a roughly three-week period beginning Jan. 11, 2019, the main line of SR 99 will be straightened out and directed into the new tunnel (hence the “Realign99” moniker).

Hopefully you have been working with your employer on changing your work schedule, or planning your new normal in and out of the city starting in January.

During a recent viaduct briefing, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan made it very clear that this is going to dramatically change how people get around for the foreseeable future.

“People have to understand that this ‘new normal’ will last years, not months, because of the number of mega-construction projects coming online,” said Mayor Durkan.

When the closure happens on the 11th it’s the elevated portion of the viaduct, this does not include the Battery Street tunnel.

“Battery Street Tunnel is not being closed fully during this three-week period,” said WSDOT Spokesperson Dave Sowers. “[There will be] one lane in each direction, there will be a lane there at Western to merge onto Battery Street at the south portal, and then also to exit through Battery Street Tunnel to Western and Elliott.”

At 10 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2019, the Battery Street Tunnel closes for good. All southbound SR 99 traffic will exit at Valley Street. Northbound SR 99 traffic will also join the highway at Valley Street.

A safety issue worth addressing

The Nisqually earthquake in 2001 did damage to the viaduct, and over the years it’s become a safety issue.

That being so, the new SR 99 tunnel is a less a project to solve Seattle’s growing issues with traffic and congestion, and more to address the serious safety concerns presented by the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“It needs to come down,” said Sowers. “This is a safety project; this is why we built the tunnel — to provide a safe route through the city of Seattle that’s designed for a 2,500-year earthquake, that’s a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The viaduct clearly could not handle that type of ground motion.”

As for traffic, the issue hasn’t been completely ignored either.

SDOT’s Heather Marx mentioned they have added cameras to help keep traffic moving.

“We’ve added traffic cameras and other monitoring systems throughout the system, so we can pay attention to as many corners as possible,” she said.

SDOT also asked that drivers be patient.

“This is going to be a really stressful time,” admitted Marx. “But we have to be compassionate with each other, and we have to be compassionate with ourselves. That’s going to make things a lot safer for everybody, and also more comfortable.”

Sully will be covering commutes from the North Sound, and I will focus on the south and Eastside.

If you think this will not affect you and your daily routine, think again.

Stay with us during this transition, we will walk you through everything you need to stay ahead of the gridlock.

RELATED: Full timeline for SR 99 tunnel, viaduct, and Seattle closures

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