SEATTLE -- State transportation officials announced Monday that the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close beginning on January 11.
Transportation officials say they wanted to avoid tying up traffic just before the holiday season so they decided to not close SR 99 but want people to get prepared now for traffic delays.
“We’ve decided that an early 2019 date is going to be best for the City of Seattle and the community at large,” said Brian Nielsen, Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program Administrator.
Before the tunnel can open for traffic, SR 99 will have to be closed for about a three-week period beginning on January 11.
During this time crews will complete work on the highway and eight new ramps.
“This closure is going to be a long-term major closure of a major route in Seattle and folks need to start thinking now what they’re alternative transportations are going to be," Nielsen said.
Nielsen says drivers should expect delays that could last for up to six weeks after the closure begins. The Seattle Department of Transportation and King County Metro are also stepping up to help commuters navigate traffic changes during the closure.
“Our transportation center is going to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s where we monitor traffic situations through our cameras and other data collection devices,” said Heather Marx, director of downtown mobility for SDOT.
The off-ramp from Southbound SR 99 to South Atlantic will permanently close one week earlier than the viaduct. The new off-ramp from northbound SR 99 to South Dearborn Street will take up two additional weeks of work after the tunnel opens.
“We’re asking people to be ready and if possible work with your employers to help you with flex scheduling and telecommuting options. Consider ways to share rides, van pools and car pools and obviously turn to Metro for assistance,” said Terry White, deputy general manager for King County Metro.
White says more buses will be added to routes as needed. Water taxi service will also be increased to serve West Seattle commuters affected by the SR 99 closure.
The three-week closure period allows crews to complete the highway and ramps so drivers can enter and exit the tunnel. Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition should begin in May.