CHOKEPOINTS

Chokepoints: A look back at the transportation highs and lows of 2022

Dec 22, 2022, 6:12 AM | Updated: 2:29 pm
ferry crash...
One of the scariest stories of the year happened in July when the ferry Cathlamet slammed into the Fauntleroy Dock in West Seattle. (KIRO 7)
(KIRO 7)

The ending of the unplanned exile of West Seattle is my top Chokepoints story of the year.

The re-opening of the West Seattle Bridge in September ended more than two-and-a-half years of misery for people living and working in that neighborhood. The closure not only cut off the primary artery to West Seattle, but it put thousands of more cars into South Park, Georgetown, and Interstate 5 as residents looked for ways around.

It was a joyous Sunday when it reopened. “It feels like it was longer than 2 1/2 years,” one West Seattle resident told me the day it opened. “Thankfully, it didn’t turn into a replacement because that would have been h***.”

The Seattle Department of Transportation says the bridge should live out its original life span of a few more decades.

The familiar clunking sound of failing expansion joints has fallen silent. The Washington Department of Transportation finally finished all its Revive I-5 work south of downtown Seattle this year. These lovely expansion joints, most of them originals from the 1960s, have now been replaced.

The pavement bumps are gone, and so are the weekend lane closures and delays.

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

But before you get too comfy, Revive I-5 from downtown Seattle to Northgate begins next year and will last several more years.

The end of construction on I-5 through Tacoma was also a huge story. The opening of the HOV lanes in August marked the end of more than 20 years of construction on that corridor.

I-5 has two new bridges over the Puyallup River and extended HOV lanes from Fife to the Tacoma Mall. Those HOV lanes now connect directly to Highway 16, which has eliminated a lot of weaving. The daily backups there have disappeared.

Revive I-5 racing weather to finish in Seattle-area

One of the scariest stories of the year happened in July when the ferry Cathlamet slammed into the Fauntleroy Dock in West Seattle. Steven Allen was on-board the ferry when it happened.

“As we were coming in, typically they will slow the boat down several hundred feet before the dock, but this time I noticed the boat was coming in rather fast, or coming in hot,” Allen said.

The ferry slammed into the alignment piling, known as a dolphin, just off the dock. It crumpled the left side of the ferry, destroying the area where people stand (known as a pickle fork) and several cars.

WSDOT’s head of ferries, Patty Rubstello, was astonished.

“It truly is a miracle that someone wasn’t injured,” she said.

The ferry is still being repaired. The captain at the helm that day has resigned, and the Coast Guard still hasn’t released the official cause of the crash.

Fauntleroy ferry dock reopens after US Coast Guard removes crashed ferry

The King County concrete strike that lasted several months will also be felt long into the future. The lack of concrete put many big projects behind schedule, including the West Seattle Bridge repairs. It was another of the reasons why Sound Transit says it will not be able to deliver its ST-3 promises on time.

It wasn’t late concrete but bad concrete that forced the agency to pull up its tracks on the I-90 floating bridge, putting that extension to Bellevue in jeopardy. There is talk of starting the Bellevue to Redmond end as I-90 gets figured out.

Lynnwood has been pushed back to late 2024 or early 2025. Federal Way is pushed back to 2025 as well.

Link light rail expansion construction faces delays

Make sure to check back next year for more traffic fun with Chokepoints.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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Chokepoints: A look back at the transportation highs and lows of 2022