Aurora Work Area
Aurora Work Area -- From WSDOT's interactive simulation

Starting next Monday evening, March 5th at 9 PM, WSDOT will close one lane of southbound Aurora Avenue between Republican and John Streets until mid-April. While the road will remain open, substantial traffic congestion can be expected, especially during rush hour, so Metro will detour southbound Routes 5, 5X, 26X, 28X and 358 at Valley Street for the duration of the closure. No detours will occur northbound.

The detoured buses will travel into downtown on 5th Ave N and Cedar St — essentially the alignment of southbound Route 16 — and serve only two stops, on 5th Ave N at Mercer and John, before rejoining their regular alignment on 3rd Ave. Route 16 will not be detoured, but could (I suspect) suffer rush-hour traffic delays. Similarly, Route 54 riders could presumably be affected if the 54’s through-route partner, the 5, suffers delays. Leaving the regular route might limit OneBusAway’s ability to make accurate predictions for those routes.

Full WSDOT press release after the jump.

SEATTLE – Drivers face increased congestion for the next six weeks on southbound State Route 99/Aurora Avenue North approaching downtown Seattle. Anticipated backups begin March 6 when crews building the SR 99 tunnel narrow southbound Aurora from three lanes to two between Republican and John streets, just north of the Battery Street Tunnel.

The lane closure is scheduled to last through at least mid-April and will give crews space to relocate utilities buried up to 15 feet beneath the westernmost lane of the roadway. Relocating the utilities will allow crews to begin building the SR 99 tunnel’s north portal, which will be located near Harrison Street between Sixth Avenue North and Aurora.

Approximately 31,000 vehicles use this stretch of southbound Aurora each day, with the heaviest traffic volumes during the morning and afternoon commutes. The southbound exits at Broad Street and Denny Way will remain open, maintaining vital connections to the neighborhood as the community prepares to host a series of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair.

“This is a busy time for Seattle Center and the surrounding neighborhood, and we are doing everything we can to keep traffic moving through the area,” said Linea Laird, WSDOT Administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program. “Drivers will have access to businesses, residences and events throughout construction.”

Drivers will use Broad Street and Denny Way to reach businesses on Republican, Harrison, Thomas and John streets while the southbound lane on Aurora Avenue North is closed for construction.

SR 99/Aurora Avenue North closures at a glance

* Monday, March 5 – Tuesday, March 6: Crews will close the two right lanes of southbound SR 99/Aurora Avenue North from Republican to John streets between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. to install a concrete barrier in the right lane. The southbound exit to Denny Way will be closed while the concrete barrier is installed.

* Tuesday, March 6 – mid-April: The southbound right lane of Aurora Avenue North from Republican to John streets will close around-the-clock through mid-April. Crews will use this lane closure to install a new underground electrical vault and duct bank. Two lanes will remain open on mainline SR 99 approaching the Battery Street Tunnel.

King County Metro Transit will detour southbound buses off Aurora Avenue at Valley Street while construction has the southbound lane closed on Aurora Avenue North. This will affect approximately 385 bus trips a day on Route 5, Route 5 Express, Route 26 Express, Route 28 Express and Route 358.

Southbound buses turning at Valley Street will detour to Fifth Avenue North and travel into downtown Seattle to resume their regular routing and stops. The southbound bus stops on Aurora at Broad and John streets, plus the one westbound on Wall Street at Fifth Street, will not be served on the detour. Also, buses will not stop along the detour route with two exceptions – they will stop on Fifth Avenue North at both Mercer and John streets.

Metro will begin detouring buses at 9 p.m. Monday, March 5. More information will be available at King County Metro’s Alert Center.

24 Replies to “Six Week Detour for Aurora Buses Begins Next Week”

  1. I saw a 358 come down Cedar St and stop at 3rd and Cedar yesterday morning. Guess now I know why. I assume she stopped in error at Cedar, as the re-route says nothing about using that stop.

    1. Actually, you were seeing two mistakes. Some drivers were erroneously told to start the detour yesterday morning.

  2. Nice to see Metro taking proactive steps like this, rather then making riders suffer through choke points just because the road technically remains open.

  3. Just a note that if those drivers start detouring via Dexter, crossing Dexter at John/Thomas/Harrison cyclists will have to start watching for drivers not watching or caring about crossing a very busy cycling route. There’s not one mention of Dexter being a major cycling arterial and potential for more traffic that could (and likely will) impact cyclists – especially at the very poor intersection at 7th/Dexter just south of Denny.

      1. You really think that drivers aren’t going to take city streets to avoid traffic backups via Dexter which conveniently connect to Aurora just before Mercer? Seriously? Have you been using this area lately and experienced the driver behavior that’s altered b/c of the Mercer area construction?

      2. Ok, granted it’s for the southbound lanes, but anything effecting traffic in the area tends to effect Dexter, even if as a secondary route – I suspect many drivers may end up on Dexter to travel southbound, just diverting to it further north.

      3. Ok, point taken Tim – yes, from a transit perspective this will not involve Dexter. Just thinking of bigger ramifications to the area.

  4. Slightly OT, but I just poked around the WSDOT Mercer Corridor page, pretty cool! Anyone know the fate of the Battery St tunnel after the DBT opens?

    1. I believe they’re just filling the sucker in. At least their graphics show it closed completely. It’s a real shame – it would be really valuable for cutting across the city, even if it wasn’t a highway. Might have even made a great bus-only tunnel, now that 99 won’t have any downtown exits.

      Conspiracy theory: Maybe their models showed better toll collection with the Battery St tunnel closed.

      1. Yes, it will be packed with rubble and sealed. The regained land at the west portal will be turned into a park and/or sold for development, as part of the Waterfront Seattle project. I have mixed feelings about the idea of a future bus use. Any bus that used it would presumably miss the dense heart of Belltown. Buses in Belltown are slow but not terrible; the genuinely problematic (i.e. sub-walking pace) part of the bus network starts around Lenora and runs through to Jackson.

      2. This sounds like a big waste considering the cost of building tunnels in the first place. They could use it for busses, just cut a hole in the ceiling at like 3rd and have a tunnel stop (there’s two lanes in the tunnel so there’s room or an in-tunnel stop). The cost would mostly be in building a couple ramps up to street level but I doubt that can be too expensive.

      3. That’s too bad. Maybe it will make for some fun urban exploring in a few years like that London Underground video Oran shared a couple months back.

      4. Aurora is going to be brought up to the surface to connect with Denny like a normal intersection and wonderfully reconnect the street grid at John and Thomas, so there’s really no way keeping the Battery St tunnel would work here without a major redesign.

      5. “This sounds like a big waste considering the cost of building tunnels in the first place.”

        Until you think about the ridership between Alaskan Way and the north end (a trickle), vs the ridership between 3rd Avenue and the north end (overwhelming). It the existing Aurora routes were rerouted to the waterfront, it would overserve the waterfront and underserve midtown. If you added new routes, they would either be overservice or too infrequent to be useful. 3rd Avenue is also an emerging transit mall, so long-term we’ll want to have most buses on it.

      6. I’m not so sure that we want to route all bus service to 3rd. Turning 3rd into a “transit mall” would only be useful insofar as I can go to a stop and there are busses coming every 2-3 mins. But this is already the case for 3rd Ave, and will especially be with the addition of multiple rapid ride routes, and the extraction of all remaining bus routes from the tunnel. There would be no marginal advantage to adding more routes to third.

        In fact, I would argue that the fact that busses skip every-other stop on 3rd Ave means it’s already over-served. It means that when you choose a stop (on one block or another), and then 50% of the busses will bypass you. I assume if they could have all of the busses stop on one block they would, but they couldn’t because any given stop would be over saturated with busses.

        I would rather see multiple transit corridors going through downtown, than putting more busses on Third. I think it would be perfectly fine to route the Aurora busses (or more) via the waterfront and create parallel transit corridor to 3rd, with a very easy transfer where they crossover. Then you could get along the waterfront just as easily as on 3rd ave.

      7. Skip-stop ends at Virginia. Putting buses on the waterfront is a terrible idea. The walkshed is awful, there’s too many cars and it’s seriously cut off from 2nd/3rd/4th. We should be improving 3rd, not splitting up our transit service even more.

    2. I can see there would have to be some changes made if the tunnel were to be preserved, but they couldn’t be that crazy, right? Maybe some entry/exit lanes to the tunnel before Aurora starts to slope up to Denny but after John St?

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