• Here's what to expect for getting around the Puget Sound area in 2019

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - There will be big changes to how we get around in the Puget Sound area in 2019, beginning with the three-week closure of State Route 99 in Seattle.

    The closure begins Jan. 11 as the roadway is realigned from the Alaskan Way Viaduct to the new tunnel beneath Downtown Seattle that replaces it.

    On Super Bowl weekend, the state will throw a party--letting people walk, run and bike through the new tunnel--and say good-bye to the viaduct.

    The viaduct will be torn down starting in February, after the tunnel opens.

    Demolition will close two or three streets at a time, with the work done by June.

    But many other projects, like work on an expanded convention center and the rebuild of the arena at Seattle Center for the NHL, will snarl traffic for years.

    "This is the first stage in a five-year period that we're calling the period of maximum constraint," Heather Marx of the Seattle Department of Transportation told reporters last fall. "This is going to be a series of events that take place between now and 2023 that are going to completely shift the way we get around."

    Near the end of March, buses will leave the downtown transit tunnel to make way for more light rail, adding to congestion on downtown streets.

    This summer, tolls will start on the new SR99 tunnel, pushing car drivers onto surface streets to avoid the charge.

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    The Colman Dock ferry terminal renovation project continues all year, with a new passenger-only terminal opening in 2019.

    Kitsap Transit is expected to take delivery of two new fast ferries this year as it expands options for West Sound commuters.

    The legislature is expected to decide this year on funding new boats for Washington State Ferries.

    Federal funding came through late last year for expanding light rail to Lynnwood, so expect a groundbreaking early this year.

    Also in 2019, Sound Transit will choose preferred route alternatives for light rail to Tacoma, West Seattle and Ballard.

    Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan will decide whether to keep building the downtown streetcar system, which she paused because of cost overruns.

    In the North Sound, air travelers will start flying out of Paine Field in 2019.

    And they'll be able to get there by bus on a new Swift rapid transit line.

    In King County, relief will come to drivers when a new interchange opens this year between State Route 167 and I-405.

    In Pierce County, drivers who have long endured construction on I-5 in Tacoma will see even more when a southbound HOV project begins in February.

    Farther south, expect more construction on I-5 by Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where a new Berkeley Street interchange opens this fall.

    Also between Tacoma and Olympia, Amtrak Cascades trains will return to the new Point Defiance bypass for the first time since a train derailed on opening day in 2017.

    Back in Seattle, work starts this year on rebuilding the western section of State Route 520 in Montlake between the new floating bridge and I-5.

    This year the state will finish another study about high-speed rail between Portland and Vancouver, BC.

    Expect to also hear transportation policy discussion about drivers cars, a road usage charge to replace the gas tax, and congestion pricing in Downtown Seattle.

    And the liability case for the expensive breakdown of the machine that dug the new SR99 tunnel could go to trial as soon as this year.

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