There's only one week left of the 'Seattle Squeeze' before the new SR 99 tunnel opens under downtown Seattle.
Commuters made it through two weeks of traffic without Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, which carried 90,000 vehicles every day.
The first two weeks of traffic went relatively well, but hit a few snags during the second week. On Wednesday, problems in the South Sound continued with several collisions. Friday's evening commute was snarled by a charter bus fire in downtown Seattle.
The Washington Department of Transportation reports that work on the new tunnel continues to move quickly since the viaduct closed for good on January 11.
BUS FIRE SNARLS FRIDAY NIGHT COMMUTE
A charter bus caught fire on northbound I-5 in downtown Seattle just before the Friday afternoon commute got underway. The Stanford track team was on the bus, but safely escaped. There are no other injuries to report.
Earlier lane closures from the bus fire continue to have a ripple effect on traffic across Puget Sound.
There's a 4-mile backup on northbound I-5 headed into the city. The southbound lanes of I-5 in Seattle are also heavily congested.
The Washington Department of Transportation reports traffic is also heavy on the eastbound lanes of the West Seattle Bridge, on city bridges, and on major streets in downtown Seattle.
Alderwood to Southcenter: 65 minutes (normally 53 minutes)
Southcenter to Alderwood (on 405): 62 minutes (normally 48)
Southcenter to Alderwood (on I-5): 50 minutes (normally 46)
Federal Way to Seattle: 43 minutes (normally 34)
Friday morning commute goes smoothly
The second Friday morning without the Alaskan Way Viaduct went fairly smoothly.
Traffic was lighter than we've seen for the past several days, though transportation officials report there were complications on some bus routes, with delays of up to an hour being reported.
For those driving into the city, many main routes were at or slightly below average commute times for much of the morning.
Friday marks 14 days of the "Seattle Squeeze" and life without the viaduct, which carried 90,000 vehicles every day.
The first week of the Seattle Squeeze went surprisingly well. The Washington Department of Transportation said commuters left earlier than usual and avoided major traffic congestion across Western Washington. Mild weather also helped traffic flow, and helped crews continue progress on the new SR 99 tunnel under downtown Seattle.
The second week of the Seattle Squeeze started off well with light holiday traffic. Then came Tuesday and Wednesday. Wet roads and multiple collisions slowed the morning commutes to a crawl.
By Wednesday night, the rain cleared out and made for a relatively easy evening commute. Thursday morning hit a few snags around the South Sound, but the evening commute flowed well. Friday is typically a lighter on traffic than Wednesday and Thursday, and mild weather should help.
Average drive times for Thursday evening commute
An earlier incident blocking the southbound I-5 off-ramp to Michigan St. and Corson Ave. was cleared before 6 p.m.
Thursday morning commute hits snags around South Sound
Despite the rain clearing out, drive times have remained a bit above average Thursday morning.
That's especially true for those driving into Seattle from the south, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The commute from Federal Way to Seattle has taken about 10 minutes longer than normal for much of the morning commute.
Those driving in from the north are having a better commute. Everett to Seattle was 57 minutes just before 7 a.m. That's about average.
Drive times in the Seattle area are 10-15 minutes longer than normal in the most congested spots - the north and south ends of Lake Washington.
In the city itself, traffic was already moderate to heavy along main surface streets by 7 a.m., according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.
All day Tuesday and Wednesday morning were two of the worst commuting days since the "Seattle Squeeze" began. We're now halfway through the three-week period of maximum constraint, which is Puget Sound traffic without the viaduct or the new tunnel under downtown Seattle.
A ridge of high pressure is settling into the area, and dry roads should help commuters the rest of this week.
Mild weather leads to normal Wednesday night commute
After a tough morning on the roads, drive times were right on schedule across Puget Sound for the Wednesday evening commute.
The Washington Department of Transportation said tonight's commute looked even better than a normal Wednesday prior to the "Seattle Squeeze."
Wednesday morning commute of "Seattle Squeeze" spun out of control
A semi-truck crash in Tacoma that blocked all lanes of I-5 for hours Wednesday morning was just the beginning of is turning into the worst commute since the "Seattle Squeeze" began.
Just after 6:30 a.m., the Washington State Department of Transportation reported four crashes in less than 10 minutes. The crashes impacted drivers heading north and south into Seattle.
Drive times along I-5 skyrocketed by 7 a.m. Everett to Seattle became a 79-minute commute and more than 20 minutes above average. Federal Way to Seattle was 63 minutes, 10 minutes above average.
Things weren't much better hours later. Drive times from Everett to Seattle were 75 minutes just before 9 a.m. The Drive from Federal Way to Seattle was still above an hour.
The commute started with scattered showers that were expected to taper off as the day progressed. Parts of the Puget Sound region will also be dealing with gusty winds, especially in the South Sound.
Commuters are urged to stick with their "Seattle Squeeze" contingency plans and leave earlier, allow extra time, or stay off the roads if possible.
One of the consistently congested commutes is leaving West Seattle. Starting Wednesday, Seattle police will stage officers at the 4th Ave S. / S. Spokane St. off-ramp and along the mainline to prevent re-entries by vehicles into the bus-only lane.
Tuesday brings worst commute yet of the Seattle Squeeze
After a smooth start to the Seattle Squeeze, Tuesday's commute brought a fresh set of challenges to commuters. The rain picked up mid-morning and continued into the evening commute.
Drive times across Puget Sound were in the red Tuesday, meaning most commutes were slower than average.
The main pinch point was traveling south on 405 from Alderwood to Southcenter, which was a half-hour behind around 5 p.m.
Tuesday morning was a traffic headache
The first week of the three-week Highway 99 closure through Seattle went pretty smoothly. Now, the first major weekday morning commute starting the second week of the closure was considered awful for those heading east from West Seattle and north from places like Federal Way. Add in Port truck traffic backing up onto Harbor Island, struggling to even get into that traffic flow from West Seattle, and the morning was not a good one.
That said, traffic flowing to the south out of Shoreline and Snohomish County was about where it was last week.
“I think today was the first real day of the Seattle squeeze that we were anticipating,” said Cam Johnson, KING 5 morning traffic reporter.
KING 5 photographer Jim Scott also drove the major highways Tuesday morning during the commute, saying it appeared on those key routes drivers were leaving later to go to work.
Traffic engineers from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Seattle Department of Transportation say traffic peaks are earlier than normal, which was a good thing. That said, it was a morning following a holiday weekend without rain, and few crashes and incidents still resulted in struggles on those roads.
At the core seems to be the junction between the connection of the Spokane Street viaduct and I-5. Highway 99 was a major conveyor of West Seattle traffic into the city, but is now shut down. Crowding on I-5 affected the commute from West Seattle, and West Seattle commuters seemed to affect I-5.
Tim McCall of SDOT said on a conference call that signal engineers increased times on First and Fourth Avenues north into the city which seemed to help drivers that could reach those intersections, but that West Seattle Bridge backups stayed pretty constant.
The first week of traffic without the viaduct wasn't nearly as bad as many feared. Regional traffic volumes decreased between 1 and 6 percent, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The highest travel times for the morning commute shifted about an hour earlier than a typical weekday.
In Seattle, the city's department of transportation observed an increase in bicycle trips on all major routes with counters.
The West Seattle water taxi carried 11,456 passengers last week. The Vashon water taxi carried 5,642 passengers - vessels on both routes had room for more passengers.
King County Metro's standby buses completed 570 trips, carrying an additional 19,737 riders.
Meanwhile, the state reports crews are making good progress on the work to open the tunnel under Seattle by Feb. 4.
“We continue to maintain schedule, which is really important to us,” David Sowers, deputy program administrator for the viaduct replacement program, said Friday.
As crews work to connect on- and off-ramps to the tunnel, contractors are already preparing to start demolition work on the viaduct, which will come down about a week after the tunnel opens.