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October 11-13: Adjusting the NB SR 99 Bus Lane to Keep People Moving

Looking south at SR 99 during the evening commute on October 8. The newly reinstalled northbound bus lane is pictured on the far left.

Looking south at SR 99 during the evening commute on October 8. The newly reinstalled northbound bus lane is pictured on the far left.


After working with our transportation partners to reinstall the bus-only lane on northbound SR 99 north of the West Seattle Bridge in late September, we are adjusting the bus-only lane this weekend to give people driving more time to merge before the bus-only lane begins.


Why was the bus lane re-installed?


There are 12 bus routes carrying 30,000 people each day into downtown Seattle that use this stretch of SR 99.   The lane was originally installed to help provide transit reliability as WSDOT worked to demolish the Alaskan Way viaduct and construct the new tunnel.


As we prepare for tolling to begin in the SR 99 tunnel on November 9, we are committed to providing a reliable commute for those bus riders from West Seattle. We recognize that the re-installation of the bus-only lane has had traffic impacts on all commuters to and from West Seattle. Adjusting the bus-only lane to give drivers and buses time to adjust and additional distance to access the correct lanes will keep people moving more reliably and help transit more easily access the dedicated bus-only lane.


Over the summer, we observed buses that used northbound SR 99 to travel from West Seattle to downtown Seattle were less reliable, with some increased travel times. Our partners at King County Metro report that the re-installed bus-only lane has improved transit reliability during the congested peak period, and we want to make that reliable trip even more efficient!


Here’s what you can expect:


NB SR 99 Bus Lane Graphic




Our crews will begin working on Saturday, October 12. They will complete this work by the time the NB SR 99 tunnel reopens at 4 AM Monday, October 14. We coordinated these changes with the tunnel closure in order to minimize impacts to the traveling public and take advantage of a positive weather forecast.




Crews will be working inside the WSDOT closure of northbound SR 99 between the West Seattle Bridge and the tunnel.  Please plan and prepare for impacts to travel over the weekend.




In the Transportation Operations Center (TOC), we’ve been monitoring traffic on NB SR 99 and on the West Seattle Bridge. After noting additional congestion and delay for general purpose traffic exiting from West Seattle, creating traffic in the area, our goal is to provide space for drivers to merge before the bus-only lane begins, reducing travel times and maintaining reliability for buses.


Given the challenges that West Seattle bus riders have experienced this year, we will be watching closely to see how the new pathway improves travel times and reliability for these riders and to identify and implement signal and operational changes, as needed.


We will continue to monitor as drivers and buses get used to the restored bus-only lane, and we will continue working with our partners to ensure buses are able to move along that pathway.


We look forward to the opening of the Columbia St two-way transit pathway and Alaskan Way for buses, which will help provide an improved transit experience for our riders.


Please plan ahead and prepare for impacts to travel.


A person waits to board the RapidRide C Line at a bus stop in West Seattle.

A person waits to board the RapidRide C Line at a bus stop in West Seattle.


Traffic patterns will continue to change as people adjust to the reinstalled bus lane and the beginning of tolling in the SR 99 tunnel. During this period of transition, please plan for extra time, shift the hours you commute, and avoid driving alone downtown if possible. With the installation of this bus lane, taking the bus is a great transportation option from West Seattle. Thanks for your patience as we all continue to navigate the Seattle Squeeze.


Want more information?


For the latest travel information, please follow our @SDOTTraffic Twitter account for real-time updates on incidents impacting Seattle’s streets. You can also check our live traffic cameras on the SDOT Travelers Map.