Expect delays! Long term closures on Highway 99 in Seattle begin this week

SEATTLE - Get ready for some major traffic issues in the Lake Union area of Seattle. Crews will begin work on Highway 99 this week.

There will be a couple overnight closures between the Aurora Bridge and the Battery Street tunnel tomorrow and Tuesday night. Then Wednesday, long term lane closures will begin. Some lanes won’t re-open until early June.

When you commute through Seattle, you have to get used to traffic and construction.

“There is always construction, that's why they call it the Mercer mess,” says Yvonne Tatum, who lives in South Lake Union. “What one learns is to re-route yourself based on the hour of the day.”

But the latest construction project isn’t going to last an hour or a day. It’s going to last several months. And it’s happening on Highway 99, one of the major north-south corridors of the region.

“As it is, it can be very busy and congested,” says Teresa Niggemeyer, a bus rider in Seattle. “So when you add another variable, certainly it's going to add another iron to the fire.”

The road won’t be shut down completely. One lane will be closed in each direction from Valley Street to the Aurora Bridge. Northbound closures will last about 8 weeks, southbound closures about 12.

“What WSDOT has told me is because of all the other summer construction, they think now is the right time to do it,” says Seattle city council member Mike O’Brien.

But some people say, with the amount of traffic already on our streets, there is no right time.

“It just makes me happy that i don't drive anymore,” says Josh Berman, who gave up his car after he moved to downtown Seattle. “I literally have no idea what people are going to do, it just won't work.”

Drivers will be allowed to use what are now bus-only lanes, but buses are still going to be making stops. So drivers and riders are being told to expect delays, unless they can avoid the area completely.

“I have the advantage,” says Niggemeyer. “I am able to work from home, so I can try to plan to hit it where it's not really heavy duty times. But not everybody has that luxury.”

“My best answer is to find the side streets that work and just stay off the congested areas,” adds Tatum. “Unless you have an extra 35-40 minutes to spare to say I’m going to sit in traffic.”

Crews will be closing the two inside lanes, so they can install the foundations for large signs, that will eventually be used to direct traffic approaching the 99 tunnel.