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Planned 4-Day Closure Of State Route 99 Could Snarl Traffic In Downtown Seattle

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Traffic at left heads northbound on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, above the southbound lanes below, through downtown Seattle.

State transportation officials are warning Seattle drivers to brace themselves for long commutes with a busy stretch of State Route 99 scheduled for closure through the weekend and into early next week.

Crews will shut down both directions of State Route 99 from the West Seattle bridge to just north of Mercer Street late Friday night. Though the Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen before the Monday morning commute, the Battery Street Tunnel, which is used by as 60,000 cars travel on weekdays, will remain closed until early Wednesday morning.

Closure Begins Friday

Some closures will begin at 10 p.m. Friday, but parts of the road leading away from CenturyLink Field will remain open until midnight to accommodate fans leaving the Seahawks preseason game, says David Sowers of the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Credit Washington State Department of Transportation
Crews will close stretches of Highway 99 through downtown Seattle beginning Friday night. The Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen before the Monday morning commute, but the Battery Street Tunnel will be closed until the early hours of Wednesday.

Expect Tough Commutes Next Week

Sowers' bigger concern, though, is next week. He says the closure could cause tie-ups on Interstate 5 as well as Elliott Avenue and 15th Avenue West from downtown through Ballard.

"Monday and Tuesday, expect the commutes to be very heavy," Sowers said. "Folks that use the north-south routes through downtown will see more traffic."

Because similar closures have also locked up the traffic grid downtown in the past, police officers will be on-hand at the north end of the closure to direct traffic heading to the Queen Anne or South Lake Union neighborhoods.

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan says the agency will keep its traffic management center open through this weekend. The city has also already changed the timing of stoplights on Fifth Avenue North, Dexter Avenue, Mercer Street and Denny Way to help smooth the flow of traffic.

Why The Closure?

The shutdown will allow crews to demolish a bridge in South Lake Union, cover the permanently-closed Broad Street with dirt and recycled concrete and then reconnect SR 99 with a new stretch of pavement on top.

Sowers also says the closure will allow crews to replace concrete panels on SR 99 roadway south of the and repair a joint connecting the Seneca Street on-ramp with the viaduct

Sheridan recommends drivers use SDOT's travelers information map for real-time information on traffic back-ups that result from the closure.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.