WSDOT warns viaduct closure will cause more challenging commutes Monday

May 1, 2016, 1:00 PM | Updated: 3:14 pm
alaskan way viaduct...
WSDOT is tracking Bertha's progress along the waterfront. (WSDOT)

It may have been bad initially, but there’s a strong likelihood that Puget Sound drivers have yet to fully realize the frustration that can be caused by the Seattle viaduct closure.

KIRO Radio traffic reporter Chris Sullivan said Friday, the first day of the closure, wasn’t as bad as some thought. Sure, surface streets were jammed and traffic on I-5 had some backups, but the morning commute went relatively smoothly.

The Washington State Department of Transportation says drivers should expect a more challenging commute Monday since the start of the work week is traditionally heavier traffic than Fridays. To cope, WSDOT wrote on its daily update page that changes will be made.

The Seattle Traffic Operations Center examined Friday’s commute and is adjusting by extending parking restrictions on Fourth Avenue South from peak periods only to all-day restrictions to help transit and traffic flow. In addition, the Seattle Department of Transportation added protected left turn signals at First Avenue South and South Hanford Street as well as First Avenue South and South Holgate Street to improve traffic flow.

Updates on the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure

The hardest-hit road Friday was obviously I-5. The northbound commute leaped to as much as 20 minutes above normal by the 7 a.m. hour. Sea-Tac to Seattle was nearly a 50-minute drive. The drive into Seattle peaked with a six-mile backup between 7-10 a.m., according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Southbound was poor, but Sullivan says that wasn’t all due to the viaduct closure; early-morning crashes and rain played a big factor in commute times. Everett to Seattle was about 50 minutes before 7 a.m.

WSDOT reported “heavier than normal” traffic for a Friday. First Avenue South and Fourth Avenue South experience heavy traffic. Drivers and bus riders on Fourth Avenue between South Spokane and South Washington streets experienced delays.

“It looked more like a Monday morning commute,” WSDOT wrote.

Meanwhile, WSDOT said Bertha the tunneling machine is picking up the pace after its “slow and deliberate” departure from the planned maintenance stop near Yesler Way. As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Bertha, had mined 39 feet of the approximately 385 feet of tunnel that must be completed before the viaduct reopens to traffic. WSDOT

WSDOT warned drivers of congestion for Mariners games at Safeco Field on Sunday and Sound Transit’s Sounder train was used to alleviate traffic ahead of the game.

Sullivan was surprised at how few people were using typical roadways on Friday, a fact he made clear on Twitter.

Sullivan also said there’s a good chance people took the day off of work Friday. However, he expects more people on the road this week. That means there’s a good chance the viaduct-related traffic might better live up to a phrase coined by a KIRO Radio listener …

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WSDOT warns viaduct closure will cause more challenging commutes Monday