Viadoom begins: Initial traffic manageable, but Day 2 could still be ‘awful’

Jan 14, 2019, 5:16 AM | Updated: 6:59 pm

The Alaskan Way Viaduct closed to traffic for good Friday night and drivers learned how losing the waterfront highway will affect them — sort of.

How to beat Seattle’s Viadoom

The Washington State Department of Transportation has been urging commuters to take public transit, carpool, or change work schedules for the next three weeks, before the new SR 99 replacement tunnel opens to traffic in three weeks. It seems many took that advice. Both the Monday morning and evening commutes did not seem as dire as many feared. But don’t hold your breath just yet.

The morning commute into downtown Seattle began approximately 40 minutes earlier than usual, as drivers began changing their habits. Meanwhile, the West Seattle water taxi saw an additional 1,000 new riders compared to this time last year.

The afternoon commute say nearly 25 to 35 minute delays getting in and out of South Lake Union.

That all being so, WSDOT’s David Sowers said that officials had actually expected Monday’s commute to be a bit lighter than normal.

“As the traffic volumes build over the week, it’s important that we be diligent and stick with our new travel plans,” he said. “This is a region-wide impact, the closure of SR 99. It’s going to affect folks who live and work in Bellevue … anybody using I-5 is going to experience longer commutes in from Pierce County and Snohomish County, so certainly buses will take a little bit longer, and driving will take longer on I-5.”

WSDOT reiterated that with a Tweet warning drivers not take Monday morning’s lighter traffic as an indication that reverting back to old habits is feasible.

Below is an account of Monday’s commute around Seattle during Viadoom, including reports from KIRO Radio Traffic Reporters Tracy Taylor and Chris Sullivan.

7:00 p.m.

For tonight’s final live update, we’re looking at some heavier traffic on southbound 405 outside of Factoria, northbound 405 into Kirkland, and that southbound I-5 drive between Highway 18 and the Tacoma Dome.

6:45 p.m.

Most backups are beginning to clear as commuters arrive home, but there are still a handful of jams worth looking at.

Expect delays on: Northbound 405 into Kirkland, southbound 405 outside of Factoria, southbound 167 just after Willis, and southbound I-5 leaving Highway 18 heading out toward the Tacoma Dome.

6:30 p.m.

As we get into the later hours of the commute, traffic is finally starting to clear across the city.

There’s still heavier traffic on 1st Avenue South and 4th Avenue South, however Airport Way remains relatively clear.

Backups on Mercer and Denny are still there, but are now minimal.

The commute on northbound I-405 heading into Kirkland is “not so great” says Tracy.

There’s a little bit of backup on the West Seattle Bridge, but things are improved from the earlier hours of the evening commute.

The crash on 1st Avenue South and Holgate has now been completely cleared.

6:15 p.m.

According to WSDOT, anyone who pushed their commute time to later in the evening is being rewarded for their efforts.

Enjoy your green traffic map, and remember to keep to that new schedule for the duration of the SR 99 closure to ensure this trend continues.

That said, the heaviest traffic in Seattle is down around Spokane Street, while the drive around the West Seattle Bridge is still tangled up.

Expect more brake-lights if you’re commuting northbound on I-90, southbound on the West Seattle Bridge, westbound 520 as you come off the water, and northbound 405 into Kirkland.

6:00 p.m.

The evening commute continues to be “not that bad, but not that great,” Tracy reiterates.

The lineup on Mercer getting up to I-5 is steadily improving, as is the backup on Boren.

Both the collision on 1st Avenue South and the crash on I-5 southbound near the Tacoma Dome has been cleared, albeit with a backup on I-5 in Tacoma that extends out to Federal Way.

In Seattle, 4th Avenue South has filled in quickly, especially on Lander heading out toward Spokane Street.

The north and southbound drive has been reasonable today, but that could change later on this week Tracy cautions.

5:45 p.m.

The northbound right lane from a collision at 1st Avenue South is still blocked, as traffic slows in that area.

Tracy is still looking at a heavy traffic on Mercer and leaving Dexter up to the I-5 merge.

The wreck on southbound I-5 in Tacoma is still taking up at least one lane, and the lineup now starts out near Federal Way.

5:30 p.m.

The drive trying to get out of the downtown corridor now is delayed from a collision at 1st Ave South and South Holgate blocking the northbound right lane.

Drivers are going to find a few more brake-lights through SoDo. To get around it:

“4th Avenue South — take it, use it, [it’s] definitely open for you,” says Tracy. Airport Way South is in pretty reasonable shape as well.

Two lanes are still blocked on southbound I-5 at S Yakima Ave in Tacoma.

Be careful driving out near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, with heavy fog limiting visibility.

5:15 p.m.

You guessed it, surface streets are still causing problems with brutal traffic getting on to I-5 from Seattle. That has 1st Avenue South, Spokane Street, and Mercer backed up from the I-5 merge.

For accidents, a collision on southbound I-5 at S Yakima Ave out in Tacoma has the two right lanes blocked.

For those of you leaving Federal Way from Highway 18, that crash is causing a significant backup. Tracy’s advice: Get off of I-5 entirely and use Pacific Highway East going out to South Tacoma Way.

5:00 p.m.

“It’s not bad, but it’s not great,” says Tracy, describing the current commute across the greater Seattle area.

Surface streets continue to be an issue, while drivers on Mercer are seeing some improvement, with the backup now extending from Dexter to the I-5 merge.

There’s heavier traffic on Boren, 2nd Avenue is starting to fill in, and drivers are encountering significant delays leaving the stadiums. Airport Way South and 4th Avenue South are still your best ways around that jam.

Drivers out near the Tacoma Dome going southbound are encountering delays from an accident.

Northbound 405 into Kirkland, southbound 405 outside of Bellevue, and the drive on southbound 167 are all busy.

4:45 p.m.

Surface streets continue to fill in, with Denny beginning to slow down.

Look for significant delays on 1st Avenue South, with lineups starting just after the stadiums, continuing past Lander all the way to Spokane Street.

4th Avenue South and Airport Way are both looking good, so for anyone looking for a way around 1st Avenue South’s traffic, those could very well be your best options.

Drivers headed eastbound on the West Seattle Bridge are having a tough time right now getting up to the I-5 merge, consistent with what we saw for the Monday morning commute.

4:30 p.m.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan stopped in on Candy, Mike, and Todd to talk all things Viadoom.

After what’s generally been a pretty calm day traffic-wise, Durkan urged listeners to keep it up as Viadoom continues

“Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint — please do it again tomorrow, the next day, and the next three weeks,” she asked.

4:15 p.m.

“I just got word from the Washington state ferries that all vessels on the Fauntleroy/Southworth/Vashon route are about 10 to 30 minutes behind schedule due to earlier maintenance,” says Tracy.

Things are starting to pick up on Seattle surface streets, with backups on Boren and Howell, as well as down near the stadiums on 1st Avenue South and Spokane Street.

4:00 p.m.

Tracy is reporting that the drive on Mercer is “miserable,” along with backups on Denny Way, Boren, 5th Avenue, and 1st Avenue South.

We also now have our first look at drive times, so let’s dive in:

Bellevue to Tukwila – 40 minutes

Everett to Bellevue – 34 minutes

Federal Way to Bellevue – 34 minutes

Seattle to Everett – 48 minutes

Seattle to Federal Way – 37 minutes

Renton to Auburn – 40 minutes

“I consider this a pretty good day so far,” says Tracy.

Joining Candy, Mike, and Todd at 4:15 p.m. will be Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who will be there to talk about Day 1 of Viadoom, and what to expect the rest of the week.

3:45 p.m.

Delays for drivers on surface streets continue to build, as Mercer, Denny, Boren, and 5th Avenue fill in quickly.

Traffic around 1st Avenue South and Holgate in SoDo is starting to fill in as well — Tracy will be monitoring traffic cameras down in that area so stay tuned for updates.

4th Avenue South isn’t in bad shape quite yet, but drivers in the West Seattle area are seeing problems already. Heading eastbound, you’ll find quite a bit off slowing as you come off of Harbor Island basically all the way up to the I-5 merge.

3:33 p.m.

Things may have been easier than expected this morning traffic-wise, but don’t let that alter your Viadoom plans quite yet.

“Stay with your plan — do not stray away from that,” advises Tracy.

On the afternoon commute side, leaving Seattle Center on Mercer up to the I-5 merge is taking drivers between 20 and 25 minutes right now.

Boren is packed, 5th Avenue is packed, and soon, the downtown corridor will be packed too as traffic continues to build outside of the stadiums.

The drive out near the Duwamish River curve is slow, but as Tracy notes, that’s not far outside the norm for that area.

There is some heavy traffic around the Tacoma Dome, but things are looking good out around Lakewood.

3:23 p.m.

The drive out of South Lake Union continues to stack up on Mercer between Taylor Ave all the way up to the I-5 merge.

“Getting out of South Lake Union could be a little bit of an issue today,” says Tracy.

The drive on Denny Way is also slammed, outside of downtown and continuing up towards I-5.

Surface streets are likely going to be somewhere on the challenging side for the afternoon commute, with 1st Avenue starting to build traffic.

Both the crashes on northbound I-5 near Seneca and southbound I-5 south of SR 18 have been cleared.

That said, there’s still a lineup on southbound I-5 not only outside of Southcenter, but as you work your way into Federal Way as well.

3:15 p.m. 

“It’s bad trying to get out of the downtown corridor,” says Tracy. “I’m looking at a lineup on Mercer right now starting at Taylor Ave basically all the way up to the I-5 merge.”

For those of you in South Lake Union, Tracy estimates anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes getting in and out of the neighborhood.

A crash on northbound I-5 near Seneca is still blocking one lane, while a collision on southbound I-5 south of SR 18 now has the left lane and HOV lane blocked for a two-mile backup.

3:00 p.m.

Things are starting to ramp-up on Mercer if you’re headed eastbound between Seattle Center and the I-5 merge.

“This is going to be a rough one,” said KIRO Radio’s Tracy Taylor.

Tracy also reports heavy traffic on southbound I-5, not just over the ship canal bridge into the downtown corridor, but heading up Southcenter as well.

Southbound I-405 is also looking crowded outside of Bellevue and working its way into Newcastle.

“Bridges seem to be in pretty good shape,” said Tracy, but with some heavier traffic down near the stadiums, but not too slammed on 1st Avenue or 4th Avenue South.

There’s also a new crash on northbound I-5 blocking the right lane just south of Seneca Street.


Below is an account of Monday’s morning commute around Seattle during Viadoom.

9:45 a.m.

Sullivan is calling Viadoom’s arrival to the Monday morning commute “Via-not.” Aside from a few collisions and backups, the morning commute went rather well, with usual or even lighter slowing.

It seems that many commuters have avoided I-5, which is the most likely route to take the traffic shed from the closed Alaskan Way Viaduct. Some have gone to I-405, which slowed Monday morning. The commute between Renton and Bellevue was still running at 45 minutes by 9:45 a.m.

“The rest of the map is nice,” Sullivan said. “But don’t be fooled … the first couple of days will be great, but people will then all go back to work and old habits. Stick with your plan. You may go from the best commute you have ever had, to Wednesday in the rain having your worst. Just be prepared.”

9:30 a.m.

It’s anecdotal, but Washington State Ferries noted that the early morning sailings between Bainbridge Island and Seattle — which usually carry commuters — were quite light Monday. The sailings are generally full of vehicles, but were not at capacity today. The state ferries attributed this to people working from home instead of heading into the city.

Ferries also observed a significant number of bike riders.

9:25 a.m.

Traffic times are quite good after a handful of collisions over the Monday morning commute. The one exception is the Renton to Bellevue drive which is about 10 minutes slower than it should be — 45 minutes. A lot of drivers are using I-405 instead of I-5 in order to avoid the viaduct closure.

9 a.m.

8:30 a.m.

Traffic is still snarled on southbound I-405 heading into Canyon Park, because of a collision and some fog. This is slowing traffic from Lynnwood into Bellevue.

“What we have here now are a lot of people who diverted from I-5, thinking that would take the lion share of the traffic during the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure, and they have gone to I-405 southbound coming from Snohomish County on down,” Sullivan said.

Travel time from Everett to Bellevue is 50 minutes, which is still lighter than normal.

Travel time from Everett to Seattle is 50 minutes, too. Drivers are hitting the brakes at Northgate, and then crawl into the city beyond that.

The drive from Federal Way is 50 minutes, but 35 of those minutes are from Southcenter into downtown Seattle. So the closure to the city you get, the slower the traffic.

8:15 a.m.

8 a.m.

“All in all, it could be worse,” Sullivan said, noting that since the Monday morning commute began earlier than usual, traffic seemed to be thinning out.

The I-5 northbound drive started at about 5:30 a.m.

“We are looking at a Federal Way to Seattle drive of 46 minutes, that’s pretty good,” Sullivan said. “But 45 of those minutes are from Southcenter on in. That tells you that the closer you get to Seattle, the more it’s going to get bogged down.”

The West Seattle Bridge has been backed up all morning, but that too is showing signs of improvement, likely due to the commute starting early.

Sullivan says that a lot of drivers went to I-405 and SR 167 to avoid I-5 entirely. He also said that since Monday’s are generally lighter commute days, that could be helping conditions, too.

7:45 a.m.

Parking for the Sounder train in Everett is reportedly full. Listeners tell KIRO Radio that the lots filled up about 30 minutes earlier than usual.

The West Seattle Water Taxi, which added more runs during Viadoom, is also extra busy. The water taxi added six runs in the morning and during the evening. A satellite parking lot for 70 more cars was also added to accommodate more park-and-riders.

“During the summer time it’s busy like this too,” said Holly, a taxi operator.

She notes that a lot of riders are new to the water taxi.

“I haven’t had to turn anyone away yet,” Holly said. “But everyone is very happy to get on and get to work.”

“I was totally inspired by the viaduct closure,” said one passenger, Jewel. “All the reports said traffic was going to be a beast, so I decided to take a more relaxed route. And it is relaxing … it’s actually quite nice.”

7:39 a.m.

7:30 a.m.

The biggest slowdown of the morning commute doesn’t have to do with the viaduct closure, rather, a collision on southbound I-405 heading into Canyon Park. One right lane is blocked, but the backup is solid all the way to I-5 in Lynnwood. The drive from Everett to Bellevue is an hour and 5 minutes.

Everett to Seattle is taking 56 minutes. It is about 40 minutes between Southcenter and Seattle, and an hour from Federal Way.

The worst drive is still for people trying to get out of West Seattle. As predicted, the West Seattle Bridge will be the among the worst chokepoints in the region. Though, the traffic wasn’t as sluggish as earlier.

7 a.m.

Mayor Jenny Durkan was tweeting from the Seattle Department of Transportation’s operations center, showing the activity there.

6:55 a.m.

“We are seeing the pressure on the I-5 northbound corridor, because of the lack of the Alaskan Way Viaduct,” Sullivan said. “It’s backed up to about the beginning of Boeing Field. We are looking at an hour and 5 minute drive from Federal Way to Seattle. Southcenter to Seattle is running at about 35 minutes.”

“The West Seattle Bridge is just jammed. You’re barely moving eastbound,” he said. “Because of that we are seeing 509 northbound getting a lot of slowing, as well as Airport Way, 4th ave, 1st ave — a lot of the streets through SoDo are slowing. So expect delays there.”

6:44 a.m.

As expected, the West Seattle Bridge is a major chokepoint amid Viadoom. Traffic on the bridge is backing up all the way to the West Seattle Golf Course, which is about an hour earlier than normal.

“It is slammed all the way from 35th over to I-5,” Sullivan said.

“And guys, we are better than this — this is the second time I’ve said this over the morning,”  he said. “I saw some poor schmuck trying to get left going across the West Seattle Bridge. He was trying to merge. He had his blinker on — trying to merge, trying to merge. Nobody was letting this poor guy in. Come on. We need to do better than that or it’s going to hurt us all. We need to let people merge.”

Sullivan also notes that a lot of drivers are favoring the SR 167 to I-405 corridor in an attempt to avoid I-5 altogether.

6:25 a.m.

Driving from Federal Way to Seattle is now an hour and 10 minutes. Everett to Seattle is 45 minutes.

The West Seattle Bridge has slowed by 8 minutes as drivers head into sluggish I-5.

Sullivan notes that many drivers are possibly shifting over to northbound I-405 instead of taking I-5 — starting at Southcenter, through Renton, and on to Newcastle. That is putting strain on 405.

6:16 a.m.

Sullivan reports that heavy commute times have started about 40 minutes earlier than usual. The worst slowing is on northbound I-5 into Seattle, following a crash at Seneca Street. It wasn’t blocking, but plenty of drivers slowed around it.

The West Seattle Bridge is showing significant slowing in the eastbound direction. Normally, drivers would get off onto Highway 99 — but that route is no longer available with the viaduct closure. That is slowing bridge travel by 8 minutes.

Travel times: Federal Way to Seattle is an hour; Southcenter into downtown Seattle is about 40 minutes (about 20 minutes slower than usual); 50 minutes between Everett and Seattle; Renton to Bellevue is 30 minutes.

Nick Allard reports that temperatures are between 20-39 degrees throughout Western Washington, along I-5. Combined with fog, he confirms some slick roads are possible.

“If you see fog, just be prepared for some slick spots,” Allard said. “Not I-5, but side roads, bridges, overpasses.”

6:04 a.m.

Sullivan notes that the morning commute arrived a bit early, perhaps from drivers leaving ahead of time to avoid the traffic. A collision on northbound I-5 at Seneca Street has traffic backed up to Boeing Field — many drivers are slowing to take a look.

Travel time between Southcenter and Seattle has grown to 40 minutes; Federal Way to Seattle is about an hour.

5:43 a.m.

Travel times into Seattle jumped by 15 minutes.

A five mile backup on northbound I-5 in Seattle quickly formed near Seneca Street after a crash. The incident occurred in the gore point (area between an on ramp and the freeway).

“It only took me until 5:43 a.m. to make a plea to drivers: Come on guys, do not stop just because you see flashing lights on the side of the road. We don’t need that during this viaduct closure,” Sullivan said.

Travel times between Southcenter and Seattle grew to 30 minutes.

5:30 a.m.

The first day of Viadoom started pretty easy around 5 a.m. Traffic wasn’t too bad, aside from traffic in Pierce County where I-5 north traffic was heavy. Drivers were reporting slick roads to KIRO Radio Traffic Reporter Chris Sullivan, possibly freezing fog on the road.

Elsewhere in the region, closer to the epicenter of Viadoom, traffic was fairly smooth. It was 30 minutes travel time between Federal Way and Seattle, as well as Everett and Seattle, and the West Seattle Bridge wasn’t slowing down. That bridge is expected to be a major chokepoint during the Seattle Squeeze.

Sullivan warned, however, that things were likely to slow down quickly.

“Get in while the gettin’s good,” Sullivan said.


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Viadoom begins: Initial traffic manageable, but Day 2 could still be ‘awful’