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New Year's Resolution: Plan for Alaskan Way Viaduct Closure and Beyond

Thu January 03, 2019 - West Edition
Washington State DOT


After the tunnel opens, it could take weeks or months for traffic patterns to settle down as drivers try different routes to and from their destinations.
After the tunnel opens, it could take weeks or months for traffic patterns to settle down as drivers try different routes to and from their destinations.

The start of the new year signals dramatic changes ahead for Seattle drivers and commuters. On Jan. 11, 2019, the Alaskan Way Viaduct permanently closes to start three weeks of work needed to open the new State Route 99 tunnel.

When the new SR 99 tunnel opens in early February, getting to and from Seattle via SR 99 will be a very different experience than it is today.

The tunnel is a direct, 2-mile trip underneath downtown Seattle. Tunnel entrances and exits, near Seattle's Space Needle to the north and the stadiums to the south, work differently than the entrances and exits on the viaduct.

The Washington State Department of Transportation produced four new videos to help drivers navigate the changes the new tunnel brings. The videos show:

Driving north to and through Seattle with the new SR 99 tunnel:

Driving south to and through Seattle with the new SR 99 tunnel:

Getting to northbound 99 from in and around Seattle with the new SR 99 tunnel:

Getting to southbound SR 99 from in-and-around Seattle with the new SR 99 tunnel:

The tunnel will be free to use when it first opens, with tolling starting no earlier than summer 2019. After the tunnel opens, it could take weeks or months for traffic patterns to settle down as drivers try different routes to and from their destinations.

Countdown to the Viaduct Closure
  • At 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, the SR 99 on-and-off-ramps close near the stadiums. An estimated 23,000 vehicles/day use those ramps.
  • At 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, the Alaskan Way Viaduct closes between South Spokane Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel. An estimated 90,000 vehicles/day use the viaduct.
  • Jan. 11 to early February: Three weeks of intensive construction work to #realign99 into the new SR 99 tunnel. During this time, both the viaduct and the tunnel will be closed.

After the new tunnel opens in early February, it will take up to two additional weeks to complete a new northbound off-ramp into downtown Seattle – creating traffic disruptions for up to six weeks.

Make a Plan. Now.

The three week closure of SR 99 through Seattle will be the longest planned highway closure the Puget Sound region has ever experienced. History showstraffic congestion worsens considerably during a viaduct closure – no matter what roads are traveled.

This is why regional transportation agencies are asking everyone to make a plan to get around differently during the 3-week viaduct closure – whether changing commute times, carpooling, taking transit, or even working from home if possible.

Resources and ideas are available including the WSDOT app, King County Metro's Get Ready page and the Seattle Department of Transportation's new traffic website.