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.
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 www.99tunnel.com.