The first commute during what will be a weekslong construction project on Aurora Avenue North went pretty well. Will the rest of the week go as smoothly?
Bus and car trips into Seattle’s South Lake Union were quite manageable Tuesday morning on Aurora Avenue North, the first big commute forced to deal with a sign-construction project blocking the left lane in each direction.
The 7:56 a.m. E Line bus took only 18 minutes to cruise from North 85th Street to Denny Way with a full crowd of about 90 passengers aboard.
Cars began to slow just before approaching the Aurora Bridge, where traffic cruised at close to 15 mph. But once drivers finished the merge from three lanes to two, traffic flowed quickly — without much of a lineup entering downtown. Few motorists used the bus lane, even though that’s permissible for the next four weeks.
The pace seemed normal to Eli and Lauren Braach, of North Seattle, who commuted with their 1-year-old son. They said the buses typically hit stop-and-go traffic on the bridge four out of five days.
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“You never know when it’s going to be a problem,” Eli Braach said. Aurora commuters have endured worse temporary closures that diverted buses toward Seattle Center, said Lauren Braach.
For four weeks, one left lane in each direction will be closed. Southbound buses will travel and stop in the outside lanes with general traffic. General traffic will be allowed in the southbound bus lane and northbound curbside lane.
Government officials have warned that severe congestion might reach as far back as Green Lake, which didn’t materialize on the first workday. (Lane closures began at 8 p.m. Monday).
However, the classic pattern for such announced major lane or highway shutdowns is for Day One to be light, followed by snarls on Day Two as drivers revert to normal habits.
For four weeks, one left lane in each direction will be closed. Southbound buses will travel and stop in the outside lanes with general traffic. General traffic will be allowed in the southbound bus lane and northbound curbside lane. Five bus lines, which carry 36,500 passengers daily, will be affected.
On some nights and weekends, including next weekend — traffic will be squeezed into a single lane each way.
About 74,000 vehicles a day use Aurora in the construction zone along Queen Anne Hill, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Some 74,000 vehicles a day pass through the northbound and southbound lanes, along with most of the 36,500 daily riders who use five Aurora Avenue bus routes.
State transportation officials have advised using an alternate route or changing travel times.
Three King County Metro Transit buses will be on standby in Shoreline and one in Pioneer Square to jump into the RapidRide E Line corridor as needed weekday mornings. Four other buses will be ready in the afternoons.
By mid-February, all three northbound lanes will reopen, but the southbound bus lane will remain closed for one block, at Comstock Street.