Expanding transit options revealed prior to viaduct closure

SEATTLE – The first set of ramp closures on the Alaskan Way Viaduct are scheduled to begin this evening. Next week, the entire viaduct is expected to close forever.

So how are tens of thousands of people supposed to navigate through the city now that one of Seattle’s main arteries is about to be closed for weeks?

It’s a challenge that could change commuter’s habits forever and that’s part of the goal say transportation officials.

But these closures will likely impact everyone even if they don’t commute in or out of the city.

“We’re really excited,” said David Sowers with WSDOT. “I mean this has been a long time coming a lot of hard work by planners and engineers and it’s finally nice to finally be here.”

After years of planning, construction, and delays - the final days of the viaduct are closing. Friday night, viaduct on and off ramps in SoDo will close for good.

Complicating weekend traffic, a stretch of northbound lanes on I-5 near the Duwamish area will also close temporarily.

Then next Friday, the entire viaduct is scheduled to close forever so crews can align SR 99 with the new underground tunnel.

The Waterfront Shuttle service is not only free, it’s expanding. It’s supposed to help commuters ditch their cars and travel via sounder rail, light rail, county buses, water taxis or other forms of transport.

“What we’ve said is every company can do something and it’s really critical that every company do something,” said Jonathan Hopkins with Commute Seattle.

Transportation officials have asked everyone to stagger their shifts, telecommute or avoid unnecessary travel through Seattle during the shutdown.

“They’re making an effort,” said Pioneer Square resident Dan Hillman. “I got to give them credit for that.”

People like Hillman will also likely see a dramatic traffic impact when up to 90-thousand drivers who used to depend on the viaduct start looking for new routes.

Hillman says he is prepared to hunker down, delay his own travel and remain patient for the next month.

“I try not to let too many things I cannot control bother me,” he said.

WSDOT says they are scheduled to get the new tunnel open by early February but that also means the weather has to cooperate. An extended cold weather streak or snow could alter that time table.