The closure guarantees on-time transportation will remain a problem for Seattle Public Schools buses into 2019.

Share story

With the shutdown of one of the city’s major thoroughfares looming, Seattle Public Schools is anticipating even more delays to the hundreds of school buses dispatched around the city.

“Virtually all schools” will be affected by the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Jan. 11, to reroute Highway 99 into the new tunnel, according to a statement on the district’s website. “Families and staff should plan for increased congestion and longer travel times during the upcoming construction.” The new Highway 99 tunnel is scheduled to open three weeks later.

Bus drivers, who are in short supply here and elsewhere in the region, will start their shifts 30 minutes earlier than usual to arrive on time at their stops, said SPS spokesperson Tim Robinson.

In its statement, the district said that families whose pickup and drop-off times will be affected by the viaduct closure should expect to be contacted directly.

Because First Student, the district’s school-bus contractor, has struggled to recruit enough drivers for its 300-plus routes in Seattle, late buses have caused headaches for parents since the start of school this year. Nearly a quarter of the district’s approximately 52,000 students count on yellow buses to be their main source of transportation to and from school.

Parents this month noted some improvement in punctuality after the district began contracting with other companies to provide supplementary service. On Dec. 21, the last day of school before winter break, the district estimated bus delays ranging from 20 minutes to two hours on 19 afternoon routes.

First Student believes it can fill its open positions by the end of January, the district’s deputy superintendent told School Board members earlier this month.