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WSDOT Warns Seattle Commuters To Brace For Congestion In January Before New Tunnel Opens

Ashley Gross
The seismically unsafe Alaskan Way Viaduct will be demolished starting in February after a new tunnel underneath downtown Seattle opens.

The new year will bring some fresh challenges to anyone who commutes into downtown Seattle as the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project heads into its final stages.

Getting rid of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and shifting traffic to a new State Route 99 tunnel has been in the works for years. Now transportation officials are warning that starting Jan. 11, 2019, SR 99 will close for about three weeks between the Battery Street Tunnel and the West Seattle Bridge.

With some ramp closures before and after those three weeks, the Washington State Department of Transportation is warning that there will be “region-wide congestion for up to six weeks.”

“This closure is going to be a long-term, major closure of a major route in Seattle, and folks need to start thinking now about what their alternative transportations are going to be,” said Brian Nielsen, administrator of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Transit agencies including King County Metro and Sound Transit are warning that buses and trains will be especially crowded.

“We’re asking people to be ready and if possible, work with your employers to help you with flex scheduling, telecommuting options, consider ways to share rides and van pools and carpools,” said Terry White, deputy general manager for transit with King County Metro. “And obviously, turn to Metro for assistance.”

Commuting to and from West Seattle will be especially challenging. White said Metro will have about 12 to 20 buses on standby to deploy where there's a lot of demand.

The West Seattle water taxi will run double-vessel service, with departures every 20 minutes during commute hours. There will also be extra shuttle service to the water taxi and additional parking options near the dock at Seacrest Park.

The tunnel is set to open in early February and demolition of the viaduct will start after that, Nielsen said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.