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How to manage Seahawks gameday traffic with the new SR 99 tunnel

CenturyLink Field (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seahawks play their home opener on Sunday, and if you’re going to the game you know what to expect after it ends: A long line of cars in front of you, and a hard time getting to the freeway.

New tunnel signs to warn drivers of game-day traffic

And don’t forget, we’ve added a little wrinkle this year. This is the first regular-season game with the Highway 99 tunnel in operation.

If you use SR 99 to get to the game and haven’t experienced the new traffic flow because of the tunnel, here’s what you need to know:

There are no exits to downtown. You can’t get off after the stadium district and work back to Pioneer Square, if you are coming from the south. You either get off at Dearborn, or you are going all the way to South Lake Union.

Expect big backups in the southbound tunnel heading to the game because the stadium exit at Dearborn can only handle so much volume.

Tunnel drivers not at the game need to pay attention to when the game is ending. Southbound drivers will not be able to get to I-90 during the post-game. You’re access will be blocked by Seattle Police as they clear out the game traffic. Pay attention to the signs before and inside the tunnel for info.

For some gameday hacks, I turned to Seattle Police traffic boss, Lieutenant Bryan Clenna. One of his best suggestions is to avoid getting on I-5 near the stadium. Use any north-south road and pick a ramp away from the congestion.

“There’s plenty of places to get on southbound I-5,” he said. “You go 4th Avenue passed Costco. Take East Marginal Way all the way down to Tukwila. Then you avoid all the traffic on the on-ramps.”

Traffic problem emerges from new tunnel amid game days

Another great idea is to park on the side of the stadium nearest your way home. If you are heading north after the game, don’t park on the south side of the stadium.

And if you’re wondering why you’re not moving on 1st Avenue, just remember that traffic control gives priority to the parking garages.

“For safety, we expedite those garages out to the street first,” Lt. Clenna said. “We generally give them a straight line to the freeways.”

Another great way to avoid all of this is to use a Sounder train or light rail. They generally don’t get stuck in traffic. Park close to home, and relax on the train.

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