Latest Program News

  • SR 99 tunnel to open in early 2019 after three-week #Realign99 highway closure

    Get ready – the new SR 99 tunnel beneath Seattle will open in early 2019, offering a direct route from the stadiums to the Space Needle. But before we can open the tunnel, we must #realign99. This closure – the longest major highway closure to ever hit the Puget Sound Region – will begin on Jan. 11, 2019.

    This traffic disruption is unavoidable. Closing SR 99 through Seattle for approximately three weeks allows crews to complete building the highway and the eight new ramps that will allow travelers to enter and exit the tunnel.

    During the closure, both the viaduct and the tunnel will be closed. Drivers should expect up to six weeks of region-wide congestion. In addition to the three-week closure:

    • The southbound SR 99 off-ramp to South Atlantic Street will close a week earlier, on Jan. 4, 2019.
    • A new off-ramp from northbound SR 99 to South Dearborn Street will require one to two additional weeks of work after the tunnel opens.

    Closure timing

    When Seattle Tunnel Partners finished disassembling the tunneling machine Bertha in 2017, we estimated the tunnel would be open in early 2019. While there was optimism this date could be moved up, a number of factors influenced the decision to stay with the early 2019 date:

    • Construction progress: WSDOT has several contractors that must complete work before the #realign99 closure can begin.  Some of this work, like road striping, is weather dependent.
    • Public notice: Starting in January ensures that contractors’ work will be complete and we can provide you with a specific date much farther in advance. Your help will be critical to keeping the region moving during the closure, and more notice means more time to plan.
    • Avoiding the holidays: WSDOT and its partner agencies are committed to keeping people and goods moving during the busy holiday season. Avoiding a major highway closure between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day helps achieve this goal. There are also fewer major Seattle events in early 2019 than there are during the last quarter of 2018.


    Get ready, make a plan

    The #realign99 closure will test travelers all around the region. During the closure the 90,000 drivers who normally use the Alaskan Way Viaduct will have to find another way to get to or through downtown Seattle. Congestion and delays will affect both major highways and local streets as drivers who normally use the viaduct look for alternative routes.

    We and our partner agencies have been planning for this closure and will implement a number of strategies to keep people and goods moving. These measures include increased West Seattle Water Taxi trips, more incident response teams on the roads, and signal timing changes on local streets. But we will also need help from commuters and employers to keep the region moving. Visit our #realign99 page for more information and resources for travelers and employers.

    A major safety investment for our highways

    We are replacing the seismically vulnerable viaduct with a modern tunnel equipped with state-of-the-art operational and safety systems. We will have more to share in the coming weeks about pathways to and from the tunnel. Per the Legislature’s decision, the SR 99 tunnel will be tolled as part of the project’s financing plan. The tunnel will be free to use when it first opens.

    Additional details about the tunnel and the future tolling of the tunnel can be found at

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  • SR 99 Tunnel Project update

    Seattle Tunnel Partners continues their testing of the 90 safety and operations systems in the SR 99 tunnel and operations buildings. Yesterday evening, during one of those tests, pressurized air forced a door open and caused some drywall damage in the north operations building. No one was injured and there was no structural damage. This is precisely why the contractor has an extensive testing protocol in place. We are investigating the cause and will make adjustment to design and operations, as needed.

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  • Keeping the air fresh: Testing the tunnel’s ventilation systems

    Seattle Tunnel Partners is making good progress testing the operational and safety systems inside the new State Route 99 tunnel. Tests of the ventilation systems are now underway, including the giant fans connected to the tunnel’s distinctive yellow ventilation stacks at both ends of the tunnel. This video shows the ventilation tests in progress:

    The ventilation system is just one of the many systems inside the SR 99 tunnel undergoing testing to make sure the tunnel functions as designed. This video shows how the safety systems work together to keep travelers safe.

    Testing to make sure the tunnel’s safety systems work together, a step known as integrated systems testing, is still to come. Additional work is also taking place outside the tunnel to prepare for moving Alaskan Way out from under the viaduct and to get ready for the three-week #realign99 closure of SR 99 needed to open the tunnel.

    Stay informed about upcoming highway and street closures via our construction notices page, our program Twitter account, or by subscribing to our program email list.

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  • Trimming the tunnel with lane stripes and stick figures

    Scientists are still trying to figure out how the zebra got its stripes. In the case of the SR 99 tunnel’s stripes, there is no mystery. This past weekend, crews working for Seattle Tunnel Partners finished striping the tunnel between the stadiums and the Space Needle.
    View from above of tunnel portal showing roadway with yellow and white lane stripes
    The stripes separate each of the tunnel’s roadway decks into two 11-foot lanes, an 8-foot shoulder on the left side and a two-foot buffer on the right.   
    Tunnel interior showing yellow and white striping for two lanes and wide shoulder
    Meanwhile, work on another kind of paint job is underway inside the tunnel. Crews are using stencils to paint tall, running stick figures on walls in both directions of the tunnel. 
    Tunnel interior with blue stencil of exit sign on right wall
    The green icons are spaced about 50 feet apart on the west walls of the southbound (upper) and northbound (lower) roadways. As shown in the photo, arrows point the way to the nearest exits, along with the distances to them. 
    Tunnel interior showing green exit sign with running stick figures painted on right wall
    If the seven-foot-tall green stick figures don’t get your attention, flashing lights at each of the tunnel’s emergency exits and electronic signs will provide additional guidance. 
    The tunnel could open as soon as this fall, after an approximately three-week viaduct closure to realign SR 99 into the new tunnel. Keep following our website and Twitter account for more information as we move closer to opening the tunnel and taking down the viaduct.
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