Aurora Ave before southbound BAT lane:  photo by Oran
Aurora Ave before southbound BAT lane: photo by Oran

Transit-friendly reporter Mike Lindblom at the Seattle Times has a detailed piece($) on the impending Highway 99 closure mess, focusing particularly on how bus riders will be impacted, and subtly pointing out that the bus riders might even outnumber the car drivers in the affected corridor. Five routes will be detoured Friday night through Wednesday morning for the Highway 99 replacement work. Lindblom gives a good run-down on where the viaduct and Aurora will be shut down.

This comes on top of weekend detours downtown for the Red Bull Soapbox Race and construction work on 3rd Ave between James and Yesler.

I was on the E Line just this past Tuesday, heading south, and got to see how much of a bottleneck the highway work has already created, before this major closure. For about a third of a mile through the construction zone, there did not appear to be a functional BAT lane, causing the bus to crawl in general traffic for about 10 minutes.

Thanks to Lindblom for pointing out that the bus riders are roughly as numerous as the SOV drivers using this corridor.

21 Replies to “Four Days of Highway 99 Mess Start Tonight”

  1. Hopefully the SPD sends a few officers to help direct traffic and ticket BAT lane SOVs.

    1. During times when the road isn’t completely closed, SDOT manages the BAT lanes. The mayor’s office can make stepped-up enforcement happen.

    2. There are few locations for enforcement to take place. Yes, SPD may hide on a cross street, but they really have no legal standing to use private driveways for enforcement. Additionally, businesses and citizens along 99 may protest the enforcement that results in drivers stopping for citations on their property (driveways). Plus, with cross streets further down, some simply feign the fact they are turning right (at say Aloha St).

  2. I don’t quite understand why they can’t make temporary BAT lanes on 5th and Dexter? How hard is it to paint “Only Bus” on the street in one of the lanes?

    1. Whoever is responsible for this has a hard time with transit lanes through construction for a lot longer time than this. My thought is that as soon as any elected politician gets thrown out of office for bad transit, a lot of impossible things will suddenly become no sweat.

      Mark Dublin

    2. For four days? I shudder to think of the chemicals and energy that went into manufacturing the paint, or the repainting after four days (since the paint won’t have faded at all).

      By the way, I’m also not happy about the temporary asphalt that transportation projects tend to put down as a first resort. Like the Link staging area next to the Paramount Theater. Couldn’t they have used gravel? Or was that too low-class?

      1. Gravel is a hazard for motorcycles, and bicycles. If sidewalks are also included, gravel is not ADA compliant. I ran into that issue a few years back. Plus, it becomes a liability for municipalities as gravel is flung chipping windshields.

        Asphalt is an amalgamation of petroleum and aggregate rock to form a concrete-like roadway structure. In civil engineering lingo, it’s often known as non-rigid pavement.

  3. The Soapbox Race thing is down Yesler Way from like 4th Ave yes? I assume it stops at 3rd?

    1. From the race’s FAQ page:

      Downtown at 2nd Ave and Yesler Way. The main entrance is on 3rd Ave and James.

  4. The northbound lanes of Aurora north of the Denny Way on-ramp are gridlocked on a daily basis because the construction detour changed the lane widths on Aurora. The lanes simply aren’t wide enough for buses and big trucks. A Metro bus merging onto northbound Aurora from Denny Way has to wait for a gap in the traffic in the lefthand lane so that the bus can move over and take up BOTH northbound lanes through that S-curve. This is not only insane, it also creates a huge backup onto Denny Way and gridlocks SLU and lower Queen Anne during the afternoon rush hour.

    1. Try it in the evening when things ‘free up’ and they come shooting out of the tunnel at 50mph+ to hit that three-to-two lane squeeze.
      Funny, how in spite of all the ads for DUI and other traffic enforcement, you never see a cop anywhere on 99 after dark.

  5. The last couple of times they closed 99 the effect was less than anticipated because of ever decreasing traffic volume. We’ll see what happens this time!

  6. I’m actually sort of amazed a company gets to close a whole minor-arterial for their own promotional reasons.

    I’m biased because I live on Yesler and 6th so I can’t avoid this Soap Box Derby thing, but from what I see they pay just a few grand for having the road all to themselves.

    There are also a bunch of reroutes due to this thing, although with the exception of the 27 which is sliding over to James, most of these reroutes are needed for the closure on 3rd to repair concrete.. Although, it looks like that was scheduled after the Soap Box Derby..

    1. If people knew how many commercials were filmed on the viaduct on a yearly basis, they’d probably fight to build a new one. It seems many newer car commercials are filmed on the double deck span of the Bay bridge, on the Alex Fraser (New Westminster/Surrey, BC), the Cassiar Tunnel and the empty downtown LA shots. You still see the viaduct shots with the Space Needle omitted. I got caught up in one of the rolling slow downs. I’m not sure where the production costs, fees, taxes etc go.

      Companies typically pay a permitting fee and traffic control costs (PD overtime, equipment, etc) to close a roadway (at least for the state). My guess is that Red Bull’s costs were minimized with the SR 99 closure.

      1. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear in my previous post. Red Bull may have worked with SDOT to time their closure of Yesler DURING the SR 99 closure. The timing could have also been by pure happenstance.

      2. Charlotte I got that. I just don’t see how the two could be related in any way. (The section of Yesler that goes under SR99 stayed open per the closure map.)

      3. *sigh*

        While Yesler and SR 99 do not intersect with an at-grade intersection, their roadway closures had traffic impacts that overlapped one another.

        Yesler does intersect roadways that provide North/South connectivity, and its closure aggravated already flustered transit routes (i.e. RR-E which would lose acces to Prefontaine) thru the Central Business District. Buses on Second would also be delayed with heavier than normal traffic (due to traffic using the downtown grid and using 2nd from Denny Way), pedestrians flooding Pioneer Square for the event, police would have been directing traffic for not only the event but managing thru traffic that would otherwise use the viaduct. 2nd Avenue is the preferred Southbound arterial thru the CBD when viaduct is shut down, as it is one way, has signal progression to Pioneer Square and connects to 4th Ave South near King Street Station. From there, one can access I-90 and ultimately I-5.

        I’ve been in this line of work for nearly a decade and it makes sense to me.

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