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How the new Seattle Chick-fil-A could cause traffic problems

Why did the Seattle driver cross the road? To get to Chick-fil-A.

The chain’s first Seattle location opens today. It will be the 12th Chick-fil-A in Washington. The openings of this fast food chain are usually accompanied by sleepovers, lines and a lot of traffic congestion. Just how much congestion depends on the location and that’s location’s access to major roads.

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That’s why I’m a little concerned about this new spot at 128th and Aurora in north Seattle, which opens the morning of June 27 at 7 a.m. It has only one entrance or exit. The location is off of 128th, which is a tiny street, filled with small businesses and homes. So people wanting to get their chicken fix have limited ways to access the restaurant — a recipe for congestion.

There’s fortunately a left turn lane on Aurora for those approaching from the south, but don’t expect much ease getting across. The Bellevue location only has one entrance, and we saw major traffic impacts when it opened. Those backups continue on some days during the lunch rush. Lynnwood has multiple entrances so it isn’t quite as bad.

Jerry Bernard runs an auto shop across the street from the new Chick-fil-A joint, and he told me he’s has some unanswered questions.

“Whether our customers are going to be able to get in or out,” he said. “Whether we’re going to be able to pull out of our parking spots. Whether people are going to be using our parking spots. That sort of thing.”

Chick-fil-A has a traffic plan to help ease congestion, but you never know what’s going to happen. Each opening and each location has its own vibe.

“I have assurances from the owner of the franchise that he will take every precaution to get traffic moving, if he has to hire people to do it,” Bernard said. “We’ll see how it works out.”

Chicken lovers could try to access the 128th entrance from the west, but that would put a bunch of cars on Linden Avenue North, which is even smaller than 128th. It’s two lanes with a protected bike lane that accesses the Interurban Trail.

It’s also possible that we could see protests at the restaurant opening on Thursday. Seattle loves to protest, and Chick-fil-A is a popular protest target because of its owner’s stance on same-sex marriage.

The city of Seattle said it is prepared for any potential traffic backups or possible protests. SDOT’s Ethan Bergerson said the city has a plan to deal with them, should they materialize.

“This is something we’re definitely ready for,” he said. “We’ve seen when Chick-fil-A’s open in other locations it definitely creates some traffic snarls. We’re standing by; we’re ready. We’re going to be monitoring and ready to do what we can to help traffic out.”

No tents were allowed at this location because of the limited space. The first 100 people in line get a free sandwich.

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