Halfway through Viadoom as the opening of the tunnel looms
We’re now roughly halfway through the partial closure of SR 99 in Seattle, as the timeline to get the new tunnel remains on schedule. How has the first week and a half gone so far, though?
King County Executive Dow Constantine and representatives from SDOT, WSDOT, and Metro Transit addressed reporters Wednesday, unveiling data on specific travel numbers, the progress of construction on the new SR 99 tunnel, and more.
“The months of planning by the state, and by the county, and by the city have paid off,” said Executive Constantine, noting the sheer volume of commuters that altered their schedules and modes of travel.
In the first week and a half of Viadoom, there were roughly 27,000 riders on Seattle’s standby buses, spread across 800 total trips. The West Seattle Water Taxi has seen 14,810 riders over that period, three times what it had in that same window in 2018. Additionally, the Vashon water taxi saw a 17 percent increase in ridership.
In the case of the West Seattle Water Taxi, even with the massive increase in riders, Metro Transit Deputy General Manager Terry White noted that there is still double the capacity remaining for any commuters who want to give it a shot in the final week and a half of Viadoom.
There was also a noted increase in cyclists, with a 124 percent increase in bikes on the Spokane Street Bridge.
Commutes during Viadoom’s early days ended up being surprisingly manageable, with a noted decrease in volume across the area.
“A lot of the major arterials through the city and on 405 have seen reductions of up to five percent of total traffic volume,” said WSDOT’s David Sowers. That also has had the peak commute time moving about an hour earlier than usual.
Even with all that, tough commutes and rainy weather Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning have prompted a renewed push to remind commuters to stick to their Viadoom commute plans.
Perhaps most significant of all the updates we got in Wednesday’s press conference was confirmation from WSDOT’s David Sowers that Monday, Feb. 4 is the date being targeted for the opening of the SR 99 tunnel. Up until recently, the timeline had the tunnel opening in “about three weeks” from the closure of the viaduct.
As of Wednesday, dry weather has allowed construction crews to maintain schedules and hit all of their major milestones.
Obviously that could change should a rough bout of poor weather hit, but for now, things are moving along as scheduled.