The Sky (Viaduct) Is Falling (Closing for 3 weeks) – BE PREPARED

We already hate Seattle traffic.  And it is about to get A LOT worse.

Watch the Video Here.

 It will be the longest highway closure that Seattle has ever seen.   Starting at 10pm on Friday, January 11th, Hwy 99 (commonly known as the viaduct), will close from South Spokane Street to south of the Battery Street tunnel.  This stretch of the freeway will be close for at least 3 weeks before the new tunnel opens.  WSDOT must realign the highway (and all on and off ramps) before it can open the tunnel.

What This Means For YOU:

  Times like these are why I always push my homebuyers to prioritize location over the size/amenities of a home.  But Seattle can be darn expensive, and not everyone can live walking distance from work.   These suggestions are ideal:

  • Work from home (if the boss will let you)
  • Adjust your work hours to come in early (or late) to avoid peak travel times
  • Bike or walk to work (your waistline will also thank you)

If those aren’t an option for you, think about taking transit.  King County is going to increase frequency of many popular routes, but it is still anticipated that transit is going to be more full than usual.   These transit options are predicted to be your best bets:

  • The Water Taxi – This should be the most reliable and least crowded option available
  • Take the Light Rail – Since the light rail has it’s own tracks and doesn’t need to navigate city streets, it is expected to run smoothly and on-time, no matter what traffic is happening around town.  Seattle will be adding extra cars and increasing frequency of trains during peak commute hours.
  • Take the bus.  This is the worst of the best options, as buses are in the same traffic as everyone else, but if we can get more folks to NOT have cars in town and take the bus instead, this will help everyone involved.  Take note that these 12 bus routes are seriously impacted during this period and will be running at different times and some stops will be impacted.
If you MUST drive during these 3 weeks:
  • Grab a buddy, make it a carpool, and enjoy our carpool lanes
  • As an FYI – the express lanes allow for single occupant vehicles to exit most exits between Northgate and downtown, so if you can’t carpool, still consider the express lanes
  • I’m a big fan of Google maps for real-life drive times, but Seattle has invested a lot into the updated WSDOT Travel Times website and the local traffic cameras website
  • If you are a fan of history, you can check out the impact of the 2016 viaduct closure here.   Experts predict we will have a similar but amplified experience during the 2019 closure.
What Seattle Is Doing To Help Keep Things Moving:
  • WSDOT opened a new transportation management center in Shoreline, that will be staffed 24/7 and communicate with local transportation centers and transit hubs to expedite the available resources to the areas in need.
  • 2 additional incident response teams have been added to quickly help and remove any accidents that impede our already nasty traffic.
  • They are adding additional electronic message signs to give travel times and suggested alternate routes.
  • WSDOT will increase signal monitoring and be adjusting signal timing daily to meet the changing needs of individual intersections.
  • They will be restricting lane closures by third parties during the 3 week period.  That will restrict construction work but keep surface streets free for cars and buses.
The Last Word:

Be nice.  Pack your patience and some snacks.  We are all in this together.  In a year we will barely remember what having the viaduct was like, and if all goes well, traffic will be better.  A little optimism never hurt anyone 🙂

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