Mercer Corridor Reroute
Mercer Corridor Reroute

Two major, long-running Seattle road construction projects will wrap up next week: the Spokane Street Viaduct widening project, and the widening and conversion to two-way operation of Mercer Street as part of the Mercer Corridor Project. Each of these has consequences for transit riders.

Mercer Two-Way Conversion

On Monday, Mercer St will reopen to two-way traffic (east of 1st Ave N) for the first time since 1968; read this Times article for details, and the (scary) 1968 Times article discussing the elevated Bay Freeway as a “solution” to the problem. Upon completion of that work, SDOT’s contractors will pivot to the reconstruction of Fairview Ave N. The work on Fairview will entail severe traffic restrictions, so all transit service which typically uses Fairview will instead operate on Eastlake, as shown on the map above.

Metro’s Eastlake/Fairview reroute began last night at 11 PM, and per SDOT’s timeline, continues through “early 2013”. While Eastlake’s coverage of South Lake Union isn’t as good as Fairview, I doubt this detour will be much slower, and it might be faster than Fairview’s current configuration, once you’ve hiked up there. In addition, this weekend’s final work for the two-way conversion will require the shutdown of the South Lake Union streetcar until Monday morning.

Metro’s Fairview routes are 70, 71, 72, 73, 83 (night owl) and 309, but note that only the local 71, 72, and 73, which operate in the evening and on Sundays, run on Fairvew; the Monday-Saturday daytime U-District expresses are not affected, nor the 25, 66 or (after this weekend) South Lake Union Streetcar. As far as I can tell from the SDOT site, 9th Ave should reopen on Monday, and Metro’s map shows the 17 returning to its normal alignment southbound on 9th, but Metro’s Alerts Center suggests the current reroute on Westlake continues until late September, so I guess we’ll find out which is right on Monday.

More after the jump.

Finally, I believe the completion of the Fairview work will allow Metro to re-electrify the 70, although trolleybus use might be constrained by the number of working trolleys Metro can put out on the road, until the replacement fleet begins to arrive in 2014.

Spokane Street Viaduct

Seattle has been working on the Spokane Street Viaduct for several years, with the on-ramp at 1st Ave S closed since May 2010. For the duration of that closure, Metro routes on 1st Ave S to West Seattle have been forced to detour via the slower and less-reliable Spokane St swing bridge. On Friday 31st, that on-ramp will reopen, and those detoured routes will switch back to the high bridge. Metro’s new spokesman Jeff Switzer had this to say:

This construction milestone will be good news for bus riders going to West Seattle. Starting Aug. 31, bus riders will have a faster and more reliable trip using the new First Avenue South ramp to the West Seattle Bridge, and buses will be less likely to face delays due to trains or when the lower Spokane Street bridge needs to open for marine traffic.

Metro buses have traveled a revised route since May 17, 2010, including Routes 21, 22, 35, 56, 57, 85, 116, 118 & 119 traveling East Marginal way to the lower level Spokane Street bridge to get to West Seattle. Opening the new First Avenue South/South Spokane Street on ramp will decrease travel times on these routes. We’re coordinating with the city so that we can revise our bus routes accordingly as soon as the ramp is officially open.

West Seattle Blog has been providing detailed play-by-play on this project for the duration, including lots of great photos.

33 Replies to “Eastlake/Fairview and Spokane Viaduct Routing Changes”

  1. Phase 1 of Mercer St will only be two-way east of Dexter Ave N. Phase 2 which has to wait for a new, wider overpass at highway 99 will take place with the DBT project.

  2. One interesting aspect of the re-route of the 70/71/72/73 buses to Eastlake is that this reroute will actually improve the quality of service over the existing route. Eastlake has fewer stoplights than Fairview and not having to wait for the light to cross Mercer, alone, will easily save several minutes of travel time.

    As an added bonus, rerouting the 70-series buses to Eastlake means you can now wait at one stop to catch either a 70-series bus or a #66, whichever comes first, without needing to pull out OneBusAway each time to figure out which stop to wait at. (The 71/72/73 are more frequent, but they are also more crowded and therefore more likely to be crush-loaded and pass you up, so going for the #66 is a better bet if OneBusAway says it’s coming soon).

    Is there any way this temporary reroute of the 70-series buses can simply become permanent (at least until the 2016/2020 service restructure overhauls service down Eastlake)?

    1. This reminds me of when there was the temporary reroute of the 10/14/43/49 from Pike to Pine between 8th and Bellevue. When I heard the news, my first two thoughts were, [a] why not the 11, and [b] can’t you make this permanent? Having a 2-way bus stop adjacent to Convention Place would be awesome.

    2. Regarding route 66 and 70 what was the reason that the 66 was taken away from 3rd Ave & Pike and shifted to 3rd Ave & Pine? If my destination is Eastlake I always have to check OBA and if the one or the other comes first I have to make a mad dash across Pine St so I can catch the more recent bus.

    3. It’s temping, but I don’t think it makes sense. If you want to get to the U-District fast, you should be on the express. The purpose of local services like the 70 is to connect neighborhoods, and Fairview does a much better job of that than Eastlake. This sucks somewhat if you happen to live further up Eastlake and you want to go downtown, but it’s just the way the cookie crumbles; we can’t provide fast one-seat rides everywhere.

      The 66 being split from the 70 is unfortunate, but it doesn’t share many stops further north on Eastlake anyway, so the common corridor argument only works at a few stops. Really, the 66 should go away. It’s a badly-designed and not-particularly-well-performing route that’s mostly a vestige of a restructure Metro did in Shoreline ages ago.

      1. “It’s temping, but I don’t think it makes sense. If you want to get to the U-District fast, you should be on the express.”

        That only works when the express buses are running, which excludes evenings and all day Sunday. I’d be fine with the #70 using Fairview for the reasons you mentioned, but the 71/72/73 local should continue to use Eastlake, as most of the people on that bus are going all the way from downtown to the U-district. Either that or find money to extend the hours of the #70 and 71/72/73 expresses, perhaps by getting rid of the #25.

        Of course, once Link to the UW is up and running, we no longer need express buses between downtown and the U-district and can focus exclusively on local service to the neighborhoods in between.

      2. It’s hard to accept an argument for eliminating the route that currently possesses near-ideal stop spacing in favor for a route that’s “painfully local.”

        The 66 stops only three times between Fred Hutchinson and the U-District. The gaps are .5 miles, .4 miles, and .8 miles. Add one stop at the corner of Roanoke and you’ll have no gaps over .5 miles.

        In a neighborhood this linear and skinny — at no point can you be more than 800 feet east or west of the transit corridor — it is impossible to be more than a 10-minute walk from any of these “express” stops.

        There’s literally no good reason to make 2.5 times as many stops, like the 71-73 do.

      3. While I agree the 70 stops too much, the odds of Metro axing it in favor of just the 66 are nil. I would argue that, even though the 70 is slow, if we were able to cash in current configuration for full time expresses to the U-District and 10 minute daytime headways on the U-District, this would, on balance, be an improvement.

      4. While the 66 doesn’t perform as well as the 71/72/73 I’d hardly call it a poorly performing route.

        It is pretty fast for a route that uses surface streets and a little more stop consolidation (especially between 65th and 50th) would make it even faster.

        True it is a vestige of the old 305, but there is a reason for keeping the service then and a reason for the 66 stick around now.

        Then again I’m perhaps a bit biased as the 66 is the bus that stops closest to my house (actually the 68 is closer but its routing and schedule isn’t particularly useful to me)

      5. My comment about performance was referring to rides/revenue hour. There’s no doubt it’s faster than the 70 on Eastlake. There’s also no doubt that the 67 corridor from the U-District to Northgate needs frequent service, which the 66 currently helps provide. But on the off-peak, ridership south of the U-District is unspectacular, and I suspect most of it comes either from spillover ridership from the overcrowded 7x expresses (those riders would be better served by fixing the expresses and making them full-time) or could use the 70 (those riders would mostly be better served by a more frequent, full-time 70).

      6. The 71/72/73X should be full time, but the 70 should also be full time. The 71/72/73 local should go away. The 66 is a fossilized vestage which doesn’t make any sense. Fold it into the 67, with a loop at the end so that southbound passengers can transfer directly to the 71/72/73X south if they’re going downtown or the 70 south if they’re going to Eastlake. Currently they have to cross the street at Campus Parkway and walk a block, by which time their transfer may have left.

      7. Always with the ultra-expresses and the ultra-locals, Mike!

        Again, every square inch of the Eastlake neighborhood is within a 10-minute walk of a 66 stop!

        Put all buses through the corridor on this stopping pattern, and you’ve actually got a pretty solid high-frequency service on your hands. Move the (currently local) stop at Louisa to Roanoke, and it becomes a great new option for the Roanoke/North Capitol Hill district as well.

        There’s no excuse for making all of those 70-73 locals stop every .2 miles today, and it would continue to be a waste of everyone’s time to do so even if the 70 were severed from the 71-73 tails.

      8. Bruce,
        Does the 66 really perform all that badly in terms of riders per revenue hour?

        I know it is no 48 or 71/72/73 but is it really all that bad?

        One advantage the 66 has over the 71/72/73 is it is much faster between 65th and Campus Parkway (and vice versa) it is also much more reliable.

        True if I’m still in this neighborhood in 2021 I’m going to just take Link downtown. But until then buses using the Ave simply cannot provide fast or reliable service to Downtown.

        I’ll also note there seem to be a fair number of riders using the 66 between Fairview and Stewart along Eastlake even though there isn’t a great walkshed due to I-5.

        But yes, we absolutely need to fix the 70 (stop consolidation, increase service span) and to provide nonstop service between Downtown an the U-district evenings, nights, and Weekends.

      9. The expresses should not be on Eastlake at all; that’s what I-5 is for. But the expresses will be going away with Link. I don’t know whether it’s true that the three 66 stops are sufficient for a 70 local, maybe. Whenever I’ve gone to Eastlake it’s always been to Lynn or Roanoke, although I once looked at the Carolina Court apartment at Mercer. (But it’s so loud outside with the freeway that you can’t use the nice front yard or even hear somebody on the door phone. So that’s one casualty of the freeway.)

  3. Mmmmmmmmm…. closin’ crosswalks!

    I do so love it when traffic engineers think pedestrians should have to cross the same intersection three times. Especially in a city with a jaywalking-averse culture. (Which is actually the reason for bunched pedestrians and troublesome right turns in the first place!)

    These are the same traffic-modelers who gave us the 4.5-minute wait at Mercer and Elliott.

    1. Ugh. That’s the kind of crap you expect to see near 405 in Bellevue. In order for transit access to SLU Park and MOHAI to work the area has to be walkable!

      We need a pedestrian “Level of Service” metric, so that when these sorts of decisions are made there’s no ambiguity about how walking is affected. Engineers of all stripes tend to discount what they can’t or don’t measure. And pedestrian convenience can be measured, just as surely as automotive throughput can. Obviously SDOT might look at the numbers and decide that a few seconds delay for cars is worth sending pedestrians walking around the intersection for a couple minutes, but at least they’d have to look at the numbers.

      One metric could be: find the average time to walk between each permutation of corners of the intersection, starting at each individual second within the light cycle, assuming 100% legal walking and that nobody has pressed any “walk” buttons before you show up. Engineers trying to improve by this metric would quickly realize the value of not forcing pedestrians to press those damn buttons to get a signal… and the value of keeping all crosswalks open! I think just making a number of it would help prove the worthiness of fixing those little annoying issues people on foot face all too often.

      1. “We need a pedestrian “Level of Service” metric”

        +1000. Pedestrians are roadway users too.

    2. I think the concern here is that a car waiting for a pedestrian to cross in order to turn right blocks the entire street, including those who want to go straight or turn left. Given that Fairview must have a small amount of green time compared to Mercer to get all those cars onto and off I-5, I can see the argument that such blockage could lead to gridlock.

      I don’t like it, but I’ve seen several other intersections where they close a crosswalk to avoid a much more minor delay to cars than this.

      Fortunately, this is only temporary until the construction finishes.

      1. Nope. These closures (9th and Terry) appear to be permanent.

        Terry is particularly troublesome, as it is becoming the second major pedestrian hub of SLU (after Westlake), as well as the major pedestrian access road for SLU Park and the new MOHAI.

        As I’ve explained before, Seattle’s refusal to jaywalk is actually a big part of our “trouble turning right or left, blocking the straight lanes while doing so problem.” With very long red lights, and no one walking against them even when they could, the green light greets a veritable mob that fills the crosswalk for most of the cycle, blocking turners until the last few seconds.*

        I will be curious to see if jaywalking Mercer gets easier once it ceases to be an onslaught of high-speed, one-way traffic.

        *(Of course, turning drivers could also learn to pull the fuck into the intersection so that straight-bound cars and buses have room to go around them, like in the rest of the universe.)

      2. Its not permanent.. From the Times Article:

        Fairview shrinks to one lane northbound, from Harrison Street to Mercer, for several weeks. To compensate for this choke point, traffic police will help drivers navigate side streets — and two crosswalks will close so drivers can make an easier right turn to Mercer, en route to I-5 or the Eastlake neighborhood.

        They’re also putting police officers at peak hours to help smooth the flow of traffic

      3. Hmm. The article text could be read either way. And the graphic makes it seem permanent, as the “crosswalks closed” in the key lacks any sort of modifier.

        Anyone have a source from SDOT itself?

      4. I biked down there this morning and looked at the Terry intersection. They have built crossings on both sides. From the south, I couldn’t get close enough to 9th Ave to see what was happening there. Also, not shown on that map, they’ve built a ped-only crossing at Boren.

      5. Went and looked at 9th/Mercer. There are crosswalks on both sides there too. The east side closure is in part because there is currently no usable sidewalk on the east side of 9th between Mercer and Vally — it has been subsumed into the construction staging area. So very little pedestrian mobility is lost by that temporary crosswalk closure.

      6. I can’t see the city permanently impeding buses on Fairview. Metro consolidated local buses on Fairview when it created the 70 because Fairview is a growing ridership market and part of Seattle’s urban-village vision for SLU. If Seattle has done something to impede buses on Fairview longer-term, I’m sure it’ll fix it when it realizes what it has done.

      7. Bruce (re: Terry/9th): Phew!! That is a genuine relief!

        Mike (re: Fairvies): You have this faith that SDOT cares about buses because why?

        This is the same SDOT that implemented a 4.5-minute red light for inbound 15/18s, has not fixed it for nearly two years, has expressed no intention of fixing it when RapidRide debuts, and has actually defended the “need” for S.O.V.s to experience highway-like freedom from impediments on Elliott (um, so that they can get to the bridge bottleneck faster?).

        When all is said and done, through-traffic on Fairview (which basically means buses, since everyone else turns on or off of Mercer and the I-5 ramps) will probably have 3 minutes of red and 10 seconds of green, as is SDOT’s habit.

        This city will stop “impeding” buses when I’m skiing in hell.

      8. Kudos for SDOT responding to a question after only a couple of hours… ON A SUNDAY!

        Dear Matt,

        My apologies for the confusion with the pedestrian and bicyclists detour map. The sidewalks and crosswalks indicated as closed on our detour maps will only be restricted during Stage 3 of construction which is anticipated to last approximately 6 months. Once the Mercer Corridor Project is complete, all sidewalks and crosswalks will be open for use.

        Please let me know if you have any additional questions, I can be reached at this email address or on our 24-hour construction hotline at 206-419-5818.


        Alex Sheldon
        Mercer Corridor Project

      9. Slowing down buses is not the same as forcing them off the street entirely, especially a street that Seattle itself wants buses on.

  4. Love that quote in the article:
    “Motorists are forced to sort themselves into the proper lanes without benefit of any help on the part of the authorities that created this congestion.”

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