SEATTLE — Viadoom. Seattle Squeeze. Period of maximum constraint. Whatever the nickname, the upcoming Alaskan Way Viaduct closure means even longer travel times for Snohomish County commuters heading to and from Seattle.
The shutdown will push 90,000 cars onto surface streets and other highways each day, creating havoc.
“If you live in Snohomish County expect delays,” said Laura Newborn, a spokeswoman for Washington State Department of Transportation. “No highway will escape the wrath of the viaduct.”
Most commuters will be home when the viaduct officially closes at 10 p.m. Friday. Highway 99 will be shut down from the Battery Street Tunnel to South Spokane Street.
The viaduct must be closed before the Highway 99 tunnel can open to allow crews time to build ramps and realign the highway. WSDOT estimates that will take about three weeks.
Transportation and transit agencies are urging people to avoid downtown Seattle during the closure, or carpool if they have to venture in.
Commuters are also encouraged to work from home if possible, or shift their travel times to before or after rush hour — which now can stretch from 6 to 10 in the mornings and 3 to 7 in the evenings.
Community Transit isn’t planning on adding more buses to routes, according to Martin Munguia, a spokesman for the agency. Though anticipating traveling into Seattle will take longer, drivers will be coming in early.
“So they can start those trips out of Seattle on time,” Munguia said.
The transit agency will also have extra drivers and buses on standby that can be dispatched if a route is running behind.
“We want to try to keep people from waiting too long,” he said.
Before planning a trip, Munguia says people should ask themselves: “Do I have to go to Seattle?”
Melissa Miksch’s answer to that is “no.” The Marysville resident plans to sit out the closure. She already works remotely three days a week and plans to shift to working at home all week during the Seattle Squeeze.
“I don’t want to deal with this,” she said. “I’m already set up for connecting remotely, so increasing the numbers of days at home is no problem.”
Miksch, who manages a team of analysts, has been making the commute from Snohomish County to downtown Seattle for about a decade. Over that time she has watched travel times increase. Her commute now takes anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and a half.
“A lot of it depends on what time you drive,” she said. “It’s definitely longer than it used to be.”
Justin Bonn, also of Marysville, doesn’t have the option of working from home. Bonn, who drives a truck, stopped at Donna’s Truck Stop on Tuesday for gas on his way to Yakima. His advice for the closure: “Go early in the morning or not at all.”
Which is his strategy now for dealing with traffic around Seattle.
“It’s bad now. Where’s all that traffic supposed to go?” Bonn said.
For those like Bonn, who have to go into Seattle, but aren’t truckers, Community Transit suggests trying public transportation.
“They might want to consider the bus, rather than get stuck in their car,” Munguia said.
Buses get to navigate past some of the morning congestion on southbound I-5 with the new transit-only shoulder lane between Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.
For those thinking about trying the bus, Munguia recommends starting your public transit trip from home rather than using one of the over-capacity park and rides, such as the Lynnwood Transit Center or the Ash Way Park and Ride.
Mountlake Terrace Park and Ride is also full and the Everett Station is close to capacity, according to Puget Sound Regional Council data.
The Swamp Creek Park and Ride, located on 164th Street SW about 1.5 miles west of I-5, and the Mariner Park and Ride, on 128th Street SW and I-5, both have room for more cars, Munguia said.
For questions about using Community Transit services, call 425-353-7433 or go to www.communitytransit.org to use the agency’s trip planner. Riders also can sign up for alerts.
King County Metro Transit warns bus travel in Seattle will take longer and is adjusting 12 routes. More information is available at www.kingcounty.gov/getready.
Sound Transit will be running extra light rail trains during peak times. The agency says the Sounder trains have room for more riders.
Seattle Department of Transportation will be monitoring roads at all times. The police department will be working to prevent drivers from blocking intersections and increasing enforcement of bus-only lanes. Over the summer, Third Avenue, in downtown Seattle, closed to cars from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
The aim of the viaduct replacement project never was to reduce congestion. It’s a safety project to replace the aging viaduct, which is vulnerable to earthquakes. WSDOT says the tunnel will be one of the safest places to be during an earthquake.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizzgior.
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Let us know how your commute goes after the viaduct comes down. Contact reporter Lizz Giordano at email@example.com. or call 425-374-4165.