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October 24, 2011 at 6:52 AM

UPDATE: West Seattle commute easiest of year?

Update, 10:14 a.m.

For anybody who waited until 7:30 a.m. to commute out of West Seattle, this was probably the easiest weekday-morning drive of the year. People there adapted instead of being snared by Viadoom.

Cars and buses went the speed limit east on the high bridge. A King County Metro bus 55, normally packed, was about half full. The driver took a detour off the bridge down to Spokane Street, then a left turn onto Fourth Avenue South, directed by a traffic cop. Another bus was a minute behind.

Matthew Robinson, who works in Pioneer Square, said he was going to take the water taxi, but saw Twitter posts that it was filling up, so switched to bus.  West Seattle Blog reported crowds of more than 100 people per boat. Usually there are about 40.

Natalie Frick of West Seattle, walking up to the Junction bus stop at California Avenue Southwest and Southwest Alaska Street, said she sometimes drives, sometimes rides the bus — and that she waited a while hoping to outsmart the early congestion. That worked.

Traffic was much heavier earlier at 6:30 a.m., backing onto Delridge Way Southwest, reports said.

The big picture is that folks left home early, or stayed home.

The INRIX traffic-data firm was encouraging drivers mid-morning to get off I-5 and use Airport Way South to enter the city. The freeway at times backed up to the far end of Boeing Field, state traffic maps showed.

Fourth Avenue South, a favorite government-recommended route, flowed well until Royal Brougham Way South, when traffic took about 10 minutes to proceed up to Yesler Way.

Some suburban trips, especially I-405 through the northeast suburbs to Bellevue, were stop-and-go. But this is entirely possible on any wet Monday morning.

Bus travel should be worse in the afternoon because all lines must squeeze across the two lane, low-level bridge to West Seattle, and some buses to White Center.

Update, 7:45 a.m.

The Monday morning commute early on was tougher than usual for Seattle drivers dealing with the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but by 7:45 a.m., traffic was moving along the West Seattle Bridge at a decent clip.

The bridge is a crucial link from West Seattle to the rest of the city.

For a time, West Seattle drivers saw a long line of taillights when they pulled onto the bridge around 7 a.m.  Buses were full, and other commuters rode bikes or took the water taxi across Elliott Bay.

Traffic was heavy early on the West Seattle Bridge, which is normal on any morning commute (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times).

Seattle Times staff reporter Mike Lindblom was taking a Metro bus from West Seattle about 8 a.m. and found it less crowded than usual.

Rain probably contributed to a few accidents that tied up Seattle-area freeways, which are expected to handle more traffic during the closure.

But traffic heading south on Highway 99 shortly after 7 a.m. was light. Most of the vehicles traveled above the speed limit.

The viaduct section of Highway 99 carried 110,000 vehicles a day. The nine-day closure for partial demolition of the structure began Friday. The work is part of the $3.2 billion project to replace the aging elevated highway with a tunnel under downtown Seattle.

Information from Seattle Times staff and The Associated Press.

Traffic on I-5 coming into and leaving Seattle, around 7 a.m., photographed from the Yesler Way overpass near downtown (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times).

Original post, 6:52 a.m.

The early-morning commute today was smooth from the south and north though two accidents at Mercer Street and Interstate 5 created some delays.

Both of those accidents were cleared before 7 a.m.

Traffic from points north,  south and west was moving easily, say Seattle Times staffers.

  • West Seattle: At 5:30 a.m., the drive from the West Seattle Bridge north on 1st Avenue South was smooth, even with noticeably more traffic than normal. Much of the traffic seemed headed for Interstate 5 though and not 1st Avenue South.
  • Ballard: Traffic from the Ballard Bridge to 15th Avenue West and Elliott Avenue and Denny Way was smooth with no delays.
  • Greenwood: Traffic was light going southbound on Aurora Avenue North from North 80th Street in the early morning, except for slower than normal traffic because of wet pavement. The closure of the Battery Street tunnel did not create any slowing at Denny, where a police officer was leaning on his motorcycle. The longest backup one Seattle Times staffer experienced this morning was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing at Nollie’s Café, since she arrived five minutes before they opened at 6 a.m.

“So far, so good,” Transportation Department spokesman Travis Phelps told the Associated Press.

Northbound traffic on I-5 flowing smoothly at 6:30 AM (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times).

But the department has warned of traffic tie-ups because of the nine-day closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct for partial demolition. The closure, which started Friday evening, caused few problems over the weekend but today is the first test of how commuters — more than 100,000 vehicles a day — will fare on alternative routes.

To help alleviate traffic congestion Monday, transportation managers have added water-taxi parking spots and trips from West Seattle, 30 extra buses to serve Westside routes, traffic police at Sodo boulevards and the waterfront trucking routes, and extra park-and-ride space at the Tukwila International Boulevard light-rail station.

But those measures alone won’t make up for the lost road lanes.

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Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: alaskan way viaduct, downtown Seattle, Morning Memo


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