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Drivers in the Sodo area will have to detour around South Lander Street until early 2020, after construction began Tuesday for the long-delayed overpass above freight and passenger rail tracks.

Limited access to local businesses, along with a walking and bicycling passage, will be maintained, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

The planned four-lane bridge will cost $123 million, aiming to avert long traffic delays and reduce threats to people walking over surface tracks that handle at least 100 trains per day in Sodo, according to a city study of Sodo traffic.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

Learn more about Traffic Lab » | Follow us on Twitter »

The Lander corridor between First Avenue South and Third Avenue South closed to general traffic last week, while six King County Metro Transit routes from West Seattle and Vashon Island were detoured in March.

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Sen. Maria Cantwell joined Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Port of Seattle Commission President Courtney Gregoire at a ceremony Tuesday marking the start of construction. Cantwell has supported the project for years; it will draw on $45 million from a federal freight-mobility fund that she sponsored.

The current design is leaner and cheaper than some past versions, but unpopular among some Seattle safe-streets activists because the city designed just one walk-bike lane along the north flank of the bridge.

Work is underway on the deep foundations of bridge columns, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation. They’ll extend 150 feet down, penetrating loose fill soil and Sodo’s buried tideflats, to reach solid earth.

The construction blockage may compound Seattle congestion while the Alaskan Way Viaduct is demolished next year, and multiple downtown tower projects and a convention-center expansion hinder other routes. The Highway 99 tunnel, due to open this fall, will include a Sodo interchange. That will give south-end drivers a new option to reach the sports stadiums and Starbucks headquarters.