Here’s your user guide to not using the Alaskan Way Viaduct. From buses to water taxis and light rail to bicycles — this list should help you cope with the viaduct shutdown, which starts April 29 and is expected to last at least two weeks. And yes, we offer advice for people determined to drive.
Here’s a look at how travel will change during the two-week shutdown of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and a stretch of Highway 99, a precaution while tunnel-boring machine Bertha digs under the viaduct’s foundations. When the viaduct closes at 12:01 a.m. Friday, about 90,000 drivers and 30,000 transit riders must make other plans, and congestion is expected to spread for a dozen miles.
Strive not to drive.
The morning rush might start at 4:30 a.m., and afternoon peaks could stretch from 2 to 8 p.m., based on a similar 2011 closure known as Viadoom, when the south end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct was demolished.
The city is experimenting this time by letting southbound Aurora Avenue drivers crawl through one lane inside the Battery Street Tunnel, then exit to Belltown, or take Wall Street downhill to the waterfront.
Crowding is likely on west-east Mercer Street and North 85th Street because drivers won’t be able to reach Interstates 5 and 90 using the viaduct and Edgar Martinez Drive. When I-5 fills, delays will spread north where Highway 522 arcs through Kenmore, and to the Lynnwood-Bothell junction of I-405.
To the south, drivers leaving Highways 599 and 509 will flood the Duwamish boulevards instead of continuing onto the viaduct. Airport Way South and East Marginal Way South at Boeing Field should offer cruising space at first, until drivers flock there and find a clog at Georgetown.
Two road-capacity improvements offer small hope.
If you are going to the Eastside, the new Highway 520 bridge eastbound widens from two lanes to three at Foster Island, giving drivers more room. And down in Sodo, there’s a ramp up from First Avenue South to the West Seattle Bridge so drivers need not cross freight-rail tracks, where streets were blocked during Viadoom.
West Seattle buses
Viaduct routes C, 21E, 55, 56, 57, 120 and 125 will take the Spokane Street loop ramp down to Fourth Avenue South, starting at 10 p.m. Thursday, when viaduct onramps begin closing. A northbound bus stop will be added at Fourth Avenue South and South Lander Street — where hundreds of people will improvise by switching to light rail at Sodo Station, if they expect gridlock ahead. Route 50, running via First Avenue to Lander, might reach Sodo Station more quickly.
Returning to West Seattle, these buses will turn up Yesler Way, then south into Chinatown International District, and through Sodo via Airport Way South.
Routes 113, 121, 122 and 123 will take the Sodo Busway to downtown, and Airport Way South and Lander, going back to Burien.
West Seattle buses won’t share the two-lane busway, which would get so crowded that delays would occur.
Snohomish County buses
Leave home early. Community Transit warns that 10,000 to 12,000 passengers will be delayed not only downtown, but on University of Washington routes stuck on I-5. No buses will be added, because the whole fleet is deployed already. In an emergency, a few buses might be pulled out of the maintenance shop.
Sound Transit express buses
No changes are planned. Delays are expected for most Snohomish County, Eastside and south suburban routes, which combined serve about 63,000 passengers.
Five roundtrips between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle will be added, using the 147-passenger Spirit of Kingston to join the 278-passenger Sally Fox. Boats will leave every 30 to 40 minutes.
In West Seattle, two temporary park-and-ride lots with shuttle service to the water taxi will add 240 spaces south of the dock. Or take the Route 775 shuttle from Admiral and Alki, or the 773 from the West Seattle and Morgan junctions.
Dedicated pick-up lots for vanshares and UberHOP are added at the West Seattle and downtown docks.
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Sound Transit will add light-rail cars, each able to hold 150 people, to two of its trains. So four of the 15 trains will have three cars. Transit staff will assist bus-to-rail customers in making new connections at Sodo Station.
A warning for the south suburbs: All 600 park-and-ride spaces at Tukwila International Boulevard Station usually fill by 6:30 a.m., so riders should be dropped off, or use RapidRide buses to reach that station or the nearby SeaTac/Airport Station. Some of the 62 off-site park-and-ride stalls may be open at SeaTac Center Garage, across the street.
Sounder commuter trains will operate as usual, though park-and-ride space usually fills, so try alternatives.
King County is offering free rides to people who join a van pool and incentives to van pools that add riders. Carpools, taxis and app-based ride services are encouraged, especially for short hops to transit stations. As always, carpools of three or more with a state FlexPass can use the I-405 toll lanes for free.
Seattle will deploy two dozen police officers to control traffic, enforce bus-only lanes, and deter cars from blocking intersections. The standard citation is $136.
Priority spots include Denny Way at Aurora; the Battery Street red bus lane to reach Aurora; the diagonal Olive Way, Stewart Street and Howell Street corridors connecting downtown and I-5; the offramp where Spokane Street exits to Fourth Avenue South; and First Avenue South near the stadiums.
To create temporary bus lanes, curbside parking will be banned on Blanchard and Lenora streets; Olive Way; Fifth Avenue South; and northbound Delridge Way Southwest near Delridge Playfield.
Peak-time parking bans, to allow more mixed traffic, apply to both sides of First Avenue South throughout Pioneer Square, and Fourth Avenue South in Sodo.
Bicycle and pedestrian routes beneath the viaduct remain open, along with the roomy Highway 99 trail next to Terminal 46. Turning cars, delivery vehicles and waiting cabs often obstruct bicyclists there, so be alert.
Bikes are welcome aboard ferries and water taxis. Parking racks are available at light-rail stops, including at the new UW Station.
For more details, diagrams, and agency contacts, see www.99closure.org and http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/get-you-there/alaskan-way-viaduct/