Get set for viaduct closure

As many islanders are aware, the Alaskan Way Viaduct will close forever Friday evening, Jan. 11, launching a three-week period known as Viadoom, the Seattle Squeeze and the Period of Great Constraint, among other stress-inducing terms.

Until the new tunnel underneath Seattle is connected in February, Seattle and King County officials are urging people to be prepared and commute at off-peak hours, take mass transit, join a van pool or ride share, or if possible, stay home altogether.

Some 90,000 vehicles per day take the viaduct — a lot for already-clogged Seattle streets to absorb.

King County Metro’s Jeff Switzer stressed the importance of people leaving their cars at home, but was realistic about public transportation during this time as well.

“We want people to be prepared for fuller buses and longer travel time,” he said. “Every bus is going to take longer, be fuller and more challenging.”

Switzer recommends that people have a plan for commuting, but also have an alternative plan or two in mind if the first one does not work out. He also suggests leaving an hour earlier than they normally would.

The city and county have been preparing for this for more than a year, officials say, and there are several plans in place to keep traffic moving as well as possible.

Switzer noted that daily viaduct traffic includes 28,000 people who ride 12 bus routes that will be re-routed through downtown Seattle. Buses coming from the south, including West Seattle and Vashon, will make their way through the Sodo neighborhood, to Royal Brougham, where they will turn onto Third Avenue, which has extended hours for bus-only travel to move transit through town.

Additionally, he said King County Metro will stage 20 buses in “strategic locations” around the city, ready to deploy to routes throughout Seattle if buses on those routes are stuck in traffic.

For West Seattle residents — who at least one King County official called the people most affected by the viaduct’s closure and upcoming traffic disruption — the county has added a second passenger-only ferry. For Vashon residents, Switzer said the Sally Fox will continue to be the only foot ferry, and the county still has a boat in reserve as a back-up vessel, should one of the other three boats break down.

Earlier this week, Public Health — Seattle and King County got involved with advice of its own. That agency suggests preparing for “car-mageddon” with an emergency kit (and some humor).

Officials there recommend packing a phone charger — but issued a strict no-texting caveat even if traffic is crawling — a blanket (or have a passenger knit one en route); flashlight, nonperishable food and a garbage bag — “to collect detritus left by weary carpoolers who have ceased to care.”

Additional public health tips: carpool, keep your gas tank near full — and the age-old advice — use the bathroom before you leave. And breathe.

“It will take patience and planning to get where we need to go during this period,” Switzer said.

For more information on navigating the Seattle Squeeze, see tinyurl.com/yc7o82xc.

— Susan Riemer

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