• Plan to keep Seattle moving during viaduct closure

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - At the Seattle Department of Transportation, Heather Marx has an unenviable job title: Director of Downtown Mobility.

    >>For a Q & A , public transportation options and links to maps, visit our SR 99 Tunnel/Viaduct Shutdown section at this link.

    We asked her how bad traffic will be when State Route 99 closes for three weeks.

    "Well, that's really hard to say," she said.  "I think a lot of that is how people respond."

    To get through the closure, many people will need to change how they get to work.

    Transportation officials for the city, state and county say they have plans to lessen the pain as much as possible.

    "We have been working nonstop for several months in collaboration," Mayor Jenny Durkan told reporters last month.

    Transit will be critical during the closure, even though many buses already run full.

    "Routes coming into downtown from everywhere will be less predictable and will most likely be delayed to some extent," said Bill Bryant, of King County Metro.

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    To help, police officers will be stationed at key intersections to keep buses moving.

    Temporary bus lanes are planned on Cherry Street, the Spokane Street Viaduct next to the West Seattle Bridge, 4th Avenue South and Aurora Avenue.

    Metro will have about 20 standby buses to deploy where needed.

    Many buses will change routes, some at the last moment.

    "Metro will be more flexible than we ever have before in rerouting in real time to respond to changing traffic conditions," Bryant said at the briefing with the mayor.

    On-street parking will disappear from several downtown arterials, making more room for buses. 

    "As we go on, if we find that that's not enough, that there are other locations where we need to remove parking, we'll do that, as well," Marx said.

    Buses will pre-position at new staging areas in Belltown and Pioneer Square.

    Third Avenue already has longer bus-only hours, and software changes for Uber and Lyft apps will keep drivers from picking people up on the transit corridor.

    West Seattle commuters will see expanded water taxi service with a second boat.

    Special parking areas in West Seattle and the new "Ride2Transit" app to arrange a shuttle pickup from home will help get people to the dock.

    "We have to acknowledge that there are people coming downtown who don't use transit, not everyone has that choice," Marx said at the news briefing.

    Single-occupant cars will benefit from the opening of the I-5 HOV lanes between Mercer Street and Corson Avenue South to all traffic.

    Special restrictions will limit bridge openings for boats in the Duwamish and the Ship Canal.    

    Finally, the city will have several preprogrammed traffic light patterns to move vehicles in or out of downtown.

    Still, the mayor has this message about driving alone:

    "If you are sitting in your car by yourself with your tunes tuned up, and you're sitting in traffic and you're swearing, next time, don't get in your car by yourself," Durkan said.

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