Those traffic slowdowns entering South Lake Union on Friday morning didn’t result from a mistake by contractors, but a planned city project to finish essential paving work.
The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) announced the one-day job by email around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, when it became apparent that today’s weather would be dry and warm enough to pour concrete, spokesman Rick Sheridan said. Several daylight hours were needed to do the work. “I think maybe it wasn’t well known or highlighted by entities that track traffic,” Sheridan said.
Crews began the scheduled lane-construction task at 5 a.m. Friday from Dexter Avenue North to Fifth Avenue, which was to last until 3 p.m. Only one lane would pass beneath Aurora Avenue North until then. The new lane will become a third eastbound lane from Seattle Center, designed to bring a bit of relief to drivers approaching Interstate 5.
By pouring the concrete now, SDOT will be able to finish the lane Nov. 15-16, and open it to travel on Nov. 17, Sheridan said. At that point, five of the total six traffic lanes of the $95 million Mercer West will be functional.
In its Twitter feed, the city initially blamed the mess on “a late construction closure pickup” from overnight work, before correcting that tweet shortly before 10 a.m. The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted that incoming traffic stretched onto I-5, and warned commuters to avoid the Mercer exits.
Meanwhile, the city announced Thursday that an emergency sewer repair will block multiple lanes of Fairview Avenue North for the next four to five weeks. Already, northbound traffic toward Mercer Street narrowed to one lane at Thomas Street, creating gridlock on feeder roads. Thursday night, the Route 70 and 309 buses, and solo drivers, competed for pavement as they merged from two lanes to one — while in the sparsely used southbound direction, Fairview still offered two open lanes and curbside parking. Asked whether SDOT can find a better temporary layout, Sheridan said he’d ask the team if they have any such plans.
The Battery Street Tunnel will close in both directions from Saturday at 9 p.m. until Sunday at 8 a.m., to test fire-suppression systems.