Has 'Mercer Mess' become the 'Dexter Disaster'?




Posted on August 30, 2012 at 5:41 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 26 at 9:05 AM

It's no secret traffic on Mercer Street has been a problem, but the mess has spilled onto nearby streets like Dexter and Westlake. Traffic is so bad, Seattle transportation officials have asked police to start issuing tickets for bad driving.

Frustrated drivers are calling on the city to do something about the mess that’s made their commutes much longer.  Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) has signal technicians in intersections all around the “Mercer Mess” to see if they can ease the back-ups.

Those employees are watching lights and traffic patterns and trying to adjust signal times.  With drivers still adjusting to the two-way Mercer and adjusting their driving patterns, it’s an ongoing process.

At Seattle’s traffic management center, they’ve seen some improvement near the on- and off-ramps to I-5, but things are worse on other streets.

“Dexter and Mercer, we’re having a problem moving traffic through and blocking the intersection is clearly one of the problems,” SDOT Communications Manager Rick Sheridan explained.

SDOT has told police to write tickets, if that’s what it takes, to keep the intersections clear.

There’s concern things could get worse this weekend.  With several sporting events and the Bumbershoot festival going on in Seattle, SDOT believes thousands will experience two-way Mercer for the first time.

They will have a sign near the off-ramps to I-5 and are considering a plan to have people pass out maps at off-ramps.

“One of the things we’re considering is maybe we need to print up leaflets that have a map to instruct those people that they need to go straight,” Sheridan said.

It seems like an extreme step, but these are some pretty extreme back-ups.

Driver Sharon Moore said so far it doesn’t feel like a solution.

“Eventually, when everyone gets used to it. It’s just more inconvenience,” she said.

For some the frustration is starting to boil over.  A mix of horns and screams make up what’s become a dysfunctional soundtrack for the new two-way street.

It seems everyone trying to get through it has a story to tell.  A bus driver says he’s already 25 minutes late on his route. Another hit his horn after sitting through an entire light cycle without moving an inch.

While it takes many minutes to meander through the mess, it takes only a few minutes to hear how drivers feel about the new Mercer and what it’s done for their drive.