CHOKEPOINTS

West Seattle Bridge traffic volume not back to pre-closure levels

Oct 27, 2022, 5:03 AM | Updated: 10:04 am
west seattle...
(Photo courtesy of Seattle Department of Transportation)
(Photo courtesy of Seattle Department of Transportation)

The West Seattle Bridge has been open for just over a month. Has the commute returned?

People living in West Seattle were jumping for joy Sept. 18 when the two-and-a-half year emergency closure ended. So were the people living in the neighborhoods that everyone was using as alternates.

But just over a month into the reopening, the commute has not returned to pre-closure, which coincides perfectly with pre-pandemic, levels. The bridge closed the day the state shut down over COVID-19. The Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) Ethan Bergerson said the traffic volume is about 66% of pre-closure levels.

“It’s been a pretty consistent level of about 60,000 vehicles a day,” he said.

More from Chris Sullivan: A survival guide for driving in the rain

An average of 90,000 cars used the bridge before the closure. Another 20,000 used buses to get across.

“It usually takes a little bit of time for traffic patterns to really re-establish themselves,” Bergerson said.

And the X-factor here is the work-from-home phenomenon. Bergerson said they don’t really know if the pre-closure volumes will fully return, considering the new work models, and the habits many adopted during the closure. “There’s a lot of people working from home now, and there’s also a lot of people that we encouraged to try out taking the bus or riding the bike.  We’re hoping some people developed habits that they’ve decided to stick with.”

One huge positive that SDOT is seeing is a huge reduction in vehicles using the side streets and neighborhoods that become the primary detour routes. Neighborhoods in SoDo, Georgetown, South Park, and elsewhere in the Duwamish Valley have quieted down. “It’s a lot of relief for a lot of neighborhoods,” Bergerson said. “A good example of that is West Marginal Way. There were points where we would see three times as many vehicles a day using West Marginal Way.  That’s decreased dramatically.”

So has the use of the Lower Spokane Street Bridge.

I have noticed that the daily backups at Interstate 5 have returned, but they are not as bad as they were pre-pandemic.

But Bergerson said they are looking at a spot just east of the bridge, on the Spokane Street Viaduct, where they have been some recent crashes. It’s right at the merge where drivers enter the viaduct from Sate Route 99. SDOT is looking at that spot to see if there is anything it can change. It could be as simple as the return of the rain or bad merging skills, but the city is investigating.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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West Seattle Bridge traffic volume not back to pre-closure levels