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We’re making upgrades to 3rd Ave in downtown Seattle to help you travel, in partnership with King County Metro

Buses travel on 3rd Ave and Yesler Way in the south end of downtown Seattle. Photo: SDOT

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If downtown is the heart of the city, then 3rd Ave is our main artery. This street is one of North America’s most productive transit corridors, used by hundreds of buses carrying tens of thousands of people every weekday.

This year, we will work alongside King County Metro, other City of Seattle departments, and our downtown partners to build improvements on 3rd Ave. These include expanding the transit corridor, upgrades around bus stops, improving sidewalks and lighting to make it easier to walk, repaving the street to give buses a smoother ride, and maintaining utility systems.

These investments in Seattle’s infrastructure will help make Belltown, Pioneer Square, and downtown more accessible and easier to navigate for commuters, residents, and visitors alike.

Extending the 3rd Ave transit corridor

The existing 3rd Ave transit corridor helps ensure faster and more reliable travel times for people riding the bus. This supports an environmentally sustainable urban environment and is the most efficient way to move the most people and reduce congestion as our region’s population continues to grow.

The transit corridor currently stretches from Yesler Way to Stewart St, and we plan to extend it three blocks further north to Blanchard St to help create a more efficient public transportation network. Construction of the extension is scheduled to begin this summer.

Map graphic showing several city blocks. A yellow line shows an expanded bus restriction area on 3rd Ave between Stewart St and Blanchard St. Red arrows show new restrictions, where purple arrows show current restrictions to remain.
Map of the planned extension of the 3rd Ave transit corridor from Stewart St north to Blanchard St in Belltown. Graphic: SDOT

3rd Ave transit corridor rules (which apply 7 days a week):

  • This corridor is only for buses or emergency vehicles between 6 AM and 7 PM. (note: school buses, private work shuttles, and charter buses are not exempted from these rules).
  • People driving vehicles with commercial load zone permits may use designated loading zones on 3rd Ave from 9 AM – 3 PM.
  • People driving can travel on 3rd Ave for up to one block to enter or exit driveways or garages (note: left turns are not allowed).

3rd Ave S and S Main St bus stop area improvements

We and Metro are also partnering on a variety of projects around the 3rd Ave S and S Main St bus stop, which is a major transit hub located next to several art galleries, non-profit organizations, and other vital services and destinations that make Pioneer Square such an important area. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is providing significant funding for the project.

To make the area more accessible for people who are walking and rolling, we will widen the sidewalk, plant two new street trees, install new pedestrian-level lighting, and replace the ADA-accessible curb ramps on the west side of 3rd Ave S. The bus zone will also receive an upgrade with new covered shelters, benches, and rails to lean on, real-time information signs, and other amenities. This will create more room for people who are waiting for their bus, so people walking by will not have to squeeze through or step into the street. We also plan to repave a section of the street in this area to support a smoother trip for bus riders.

4Culture (King County’s cultural funding agency) is funding an art installation as part of the project by artists Preston Singletary and David Franklin. It will showcase Pioneer Square’s beloved art scene and highlight the stories and history of indigenous people and Tlingit culture.

Photo of two people standing in front of a newly-installed piece of artwork. Both people wear reflective safety vests and hard hats. The Space Needle and other buildings are in the background.
Example of recent art installation, La Diab Pish, a sculpture depicting a Pacific giant octopus near Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. The same artists will lead work on the new art installation in Pioneer Square. Photo credit: David Franklin and Preston Singletary
Photo of a bus and several parked cars. To the center of the photo, deteriorated street pavement is shown next to the sidewalk.
Example of deteriorating street pavement in Pioneer Square. Photo: SDOT

3rd Ave S will become a southbound one-way street between S Washington St and S Main St, with no loss of parking or loading areas.

Map graphic showing improvements along 3rd Ave S between Yesler Way and S Main St. They include new concrete roadway, expanded sidewalks, new lighting, bus shelters, and more.
Graphic showing upcoming improvements to 3rd Ave S between S Main St and Yesler Way. Graphic: SDOT

3rd Ave repaving and water main replacement

This year, we will repave 3rd Ave in several areas to help preserve and maintain our street infrastructure. This repaving work is primarily located between Virginia and Pine streets. The street pavement has seen better days, leading to frequent cracks, potholes, and uneven surfaces. Restoring and revitalizing the street will mean a smoother and more reliable ride for bus riders.

We will coordinate with Seattle Public Utilities to replace an old underground water main while the paving is happening. This coordination helps reduce the cost of both of these necessary projects and avoids the need for another set of street closures in the future.

3rd Ave S & Yesler Way pedestrian and bike improvements

Map graphic showing improvements at Yesler Way and 3rd Ave S, including raised bike lanes, expanded and repaired sidewalks, new curb ramps, new lighting, and more.
Graphic showing planned improvements at 3rd Ave S and Yesler Way, next to City Hall Park. Graphic: SDOT

The 3rd Ave S and Yesler Way intersection in Pioneer Square is a major bus thoroughfare and transfer point for Pioneer Square Link light rail riders.

In 2022, we began trying out improvements to make this space easier for people to navigate by removing a northbound vehicle lane and right turn lane on 3rd Ave across Yesler Way to create a safer connection for people on bikes using Dilling Way to cross this intersection and get to and from the 4th Ave protected bike lane. The traffic signal was reconfigured to provide more green time for buses and crossing pedestrians. We used paint and flexible plastic posts to indicate the additional space for people to walk, roll, and bike.

These changes were generally successful, and we are now making these improvements permanent, with some adjustments made based on lessons learned during the trial period. This spring, we plan to permanently replace the former vehicle lanes and temporary plastic posts with a new, wider concrete sidewalk. We will also plant new street trees, add more pedestrian lighting, and install directional signs for pedestrians.

We will also install new bike traffic signals, build permanent bike lane protection along Yesler Way west of 3rd Ave, repave the bike lane on Dilling Way, and redesign the bike crossing at 3rd Ave to separate people on bikes from people walking. Meanwhile, a separate project to build a concrete buffer for the 4th Ave protected bike lane is also beginning this spring.

The path ahead

Collectively, these 3rd Ave projects reflect our vision to embrace innovative and forward-thinking approaches to transportation. These projects will create a better-connected and more sustainable transit network for everyone coming downtown and support Seattle’s larger downtown revitalization effort.

Stay informed:

Thank you for your interest as this important work moves forward.

What people are saying:

“Our suite of projects on 3rd Ave in downtown Seattle will make it easier for people to catch the bus and get to light rail as well as replace aging pavement and utilities in Pioneer Square. Downtown is the centerpiece of our transportation system and an important hub for jobs, culture, tourism, and community events. We look forward to getting to work on these significant upgrades.” – Greg Spotts, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation

“Third Avenue is more than just a downtown bus corridor, it is the spine of our entire regional transit network, and improvements made here ripple far and wide. SDOT’s planned investments are an exciting first step to a better Third Avenue. New real-time arrival kiosks and safer pedestrian crossings will markedly improve rider experience. Expanded bus only restrictions will help your bus arrive reliably on-time. Commute Seattle looks forward to engaging with the City and private-sector stakeholders to build on this work and bring more better bus stops, walkability, and vibrancy to this key stretch of downtown.” – Alex Hudson, Executive Director, Commute Seattle