The SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct will close Friday. Its replacement, the SR 99 Tunnel will not open until about three weeks later while crews reroute the existing highway into the tunnel and build ramps.
The closure is expected to impact traffic in Seattle in a way the city has never seen before -- with an estimated 90,000 drivers who used the viaduct having to find alternate ways to get into or through downtown Seattle.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says everyone should plan ahead for their alternate commute to avoid gridlock.
When is this happening?
On Friday, Jan. 11 at 10 p.m., the entire viaduct will permanently close, forcing about 90,000 vehicles a day onto city streets and highways.
Find more answers to common questions about the closure and the opening of the tunnel in our Q & A at this link.
How should I prepare?
If your usual route includes taking SR 99 into downtown Seattle, you’re going to have to change your route, take public transportation or telecommute. Those who will be commuting should expect increased traffic volumes on surface streets, interstates and highways across the region.
Here’s some advice and options from the Washington and Seattle departments of transportation.
- Adjust your travel times, if possible. Peak travel times are typically 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m
- Bike or walk to work or school
- Start or join a carpool, vanpool or vanshare
- Use transit, particularly Sound Transit Link light rail or the King County Water Taxi
- Talk to your employer about telecommuting
Find more links to travel alternatives in this PDF document from WSDOT including bike maps, walking routes and more.
Plan ahead: Research public transit options
Again, if you can make your commute outside of peak travel times, public transportation will be less crowded. You can call King County Metro for help with trip planning at 206-553-3000 or use one of the options below:
- King County Get-Ready website
- King County Travel Options
- Puget Sound Trip Planner -- Desktop | App
- King County Park & Ride locations and information
- OneBusAway mobile app
- Get Ready - King County Metro
If you take a bus that used the viaduct into downtown Seattle, your route will change; plan for delays
Twelve bus routes will change paths after the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes: 21x, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125 and C Line. They will go to the same places and serve the same or similar stops, but trips will take much longer. Routes that used to travel the viaduct will instead take a temporary route on Fourth Avenue South. Metro says riders should plan ahead and take an earlier bus. See a map and changes to the 12 bus routes at this link (PDF).
Need help getting to a transit hub?
>>Lyft and Uber are offering discounted rides to and from transit hubs. Get the details at this link.
>>SDOT and Metro have launched an on-demand van service in West Seattle. The service is available through the Ride2 app where you can book your ride to either the West Seattle Junction or Water Taxi dock. Get details about the app and service here.
Need to get downtown from West Seattle?
With buses expected to be crowded and surface streets jammed, the King County Water Taxi may be your best option. Starting Monday, Jan. 14, the Water Taxi will replace its current schedule with one that expands service on weekdays and offers midday sailings. See the new schedule and ways to connect with the Water Taxi here (PDF).
Vessels will depart West Seattle every 20 minutes for a total of 12 sailings during the morning and evening commutes. Two boats will be operating during those times.
There will be more shuttles and buses to get you to and from the Water Taxi dock at Seacrest Park.
The Route 773 and 775 shuttles – which serve the West Seattle Junction and Admiral District areas – will offer free service for every sailing arriving and departing Seacrest Park.
There's also more parking available for Water Taxi riders.
A continuous free shuttle to and from Seacrest Park will connect riders with three parking lots:
- Harbor Ave SW will have overnight parking restrictions south of Seacrest Park on the southeast (water) side to allow open morning parking for approximately 120 cars.
- SW Bronson Way is an unpaved parking area south of Salty’s restaurant which holds about 40 cars.
- The Pier 2 parking lot is a secured parking facility holding more than 250 cars. It will be staffed Monday through Friday from 5:45 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Cars will not be accessible outside of these hours. We suggest you park here 20 minutes before sailing time. The shuttle will run the .6 mile route continuously between Pier 2 and Seacrest Park.
Still plan on driving?
Expect lots of company, no matter what the route. Avoid peak travel times -- typically 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., but congestion is expected to start earlier and last longer during the closure.
Coming from the West Seattle Bridge, off ramps to First and Fourth avenues will remain open.
Northbound: Northbound drivers who usually take SR 509 to SR 99 can take the Michigan Street exit from the First Avenue South Bridge and then turn onto Fourth Avenue, continue straight to get onto I-5 or connect to Airport Way South. Drivers can also take First Avenue South into downtown after crossing the bridge.
If you’re using northbound I-5 and get on at SeaTac or south, drivers can avoid the crush into downtown by taking exit 156 for Tukwila to north SR 599 and then exit onto Airport Way South, which parallels I-5, into downtown.
Southbound: If you usually take SR 99 heading south into downtown, the last available exit will be at the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel onto Western Avenue.
Overall, unless you're traveling early or late, expect surface streets to be jammed and traffic to be much heavier on interstates, as drivers shift their routes.
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