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The SR 99 Viaduct is permanently closing in January – here’s what we’re doing to help you get around downtown.

Alaskan Way Viaduct as it looks today. Photo by Jeanne Clark.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is closing permanently in January 2019 & new SR 99 tunnel is opening in February 2019.

We all knew it was coming, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to experience a closed Alaskan Way Viaduct (AWV) with a not-yet-open SR 99 tunnel, and for three weeks at that. Today, the WA State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced an established date for the three week-closure of AWV which is prior to opening the SR 99 tunnel to drivers. WSDOT’s current plan is to begin the three-week closure on Friday, January 11, 2019.


Alaskan Way Viaduct and Waterfront – looking north. Photo by Jeanne Clark.

This historic event of closing the AWV and opening the SR 99 tunnel will forever change how we get around Seattle.

Our teams have long-coordinated with WSDOT on how and where we can best support mobility needs during the three weeks. Here’s what we’re doing to coordinate efforts with WSDOT so you can get around downtown safely and efficiently as possible during this transition.


To prepare, we’ve developed five key pillars of our downtown mobility strategy:

In our Sept 7 blog: Seattle’s transportation new normal is just around the corner, we laid out our five strategies to help you get around as easily as possible during this challenging period.



We’re working around the clock to help you prepare and navigate around the construction impacts while keeping you informed of what’s happening so that you can plan your commute accordingly.


 A Key Step: Deploying a 24/7 Transportation Operation Center.

We have multiple areas of focus to help deliver a high-quality transportation system for Seattle. One of those is a state-of-the-art Transportation Operations Center (TOC). The TOC is our nerve center coordinating information from traffic cameras across the city plus data from Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) installed citywide. Our TOC will be fully staffed 24/7, adding:


  • Constant traffic monitoring,
  • Reporting out (including electronic messaging signs),
  • Real-time adjustments of traffic signals to ease traffic flow,
  • Daily communications coordination with WSDOT and partner agencies, and
  • Real-time construction and traffic information sharing with Google Maps, Waze, and TomTom.


Follow our TOC on Twitter (@SDOTtraffic) for real-time traffic communication. The more information checking and disseminating, the better during this three-week journey we’re taking.

SDOT’s Transportation Operations Center. Pictured: Samual Yemane. Photo by Jeanne Clark.


 Adding to traffic flow operations.

Minute-to-minute information exchange and adjusting traffic flow isn’t enough though, so we’re trying to come at it from all sides. These include:


Helping drivers:

We’re coordinating with the Seattle Police Department to deploy uniformed police officers at key transit intersections – prioritizing transit and helping drivers get through.


Prioritizing transit:

We’re supporting King County Metro Transit with temporary bus staging assistance; helping with carpool and park-and-rides implementation; and thanks to Seattle voters, the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD) is adding 14 AM and 17 PM bus trips to address crowding on routes across the city. Routes 17, 18, 28, 40, 41, 56, 57, 70, 120, and RapidRides C, D, and E Lines will all receive additional trips funded by STBD. STBD funds the ORCA Opportunity program, which provides Seattle Public School high schools students with 12-month bus passes. In 2019-2020, STBD will fund capital improvements to speed up buses and make them more reliable for riders.


It’s all to help address the three-week closure sequencing.

During the three weeks, there will be very important work going on to enable the new tunnel to open, on both the north and south (shown below) ends.


When all is said and done, after the tunnel opens and other refinements are completed, three roads currently interrupted by SR 99 (John, Thomas and Harrison streets) will be reconnected, improving east-west connections between South Lake Union and Uptown. There will also be a host of other route enhancements, as shown on this WSDOT Seattle’s Completed Waterfront page (and map below).

It’ll all be worth it.

The end result looks good.



Waterfront Seattle’s work includes a road above the waterfront railroad tracks to connect Elliott and Western avenues with Alaskan Way, avoiding a railroad crossing. At that time, later in 2019, the traffic that today uses the viaduct’s mid-town ramps to enter or leave downtown can instead use the new Alaskan Way surface street.


For more information, as we plunge into the biggest transportation closure Seattle has ever seen, visit the source: WSDOT’s #Realign99 Highway Closure website for details.



SDOT’s Traveler’s Map

Know before you go. Use the map controls to see real-time traffic, travel times, camera footage, if a bridge is up or down, and if a railroad crossing is open or closed – select by neighborhood if you choose.


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King County’s Get Ready website

There’s no way around it—getting around Seattle is going to be tricky during the SR 99 closure. Expect traffic delays and be prepared for full buses during peak travel times. Check out the travel options below that can help you get around in anticipation of the new SR 99 tunnel opening.


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