SEATTLE – A one-mile stretch of Aurora Avenue north through the South Lake Union neighborhood will lose one lane in each direction for seven weeks beginning in January as part of the State Route 99 tunnel project. It will not only affect thousands of drivers but more than 30,000 bus riders daily.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says the around-the-clock lane closure will happen between Highland Drive and the Aurora Bridge. An additional lane will be closed at night and on several weekends.
WSDOT says the lane closures are needed to create a safe work zone for construction crews to install foundations for large signs that will eventually direct traffic approaching the north end of the SR 99 tunnel.
The work was supposed to happen this past spring but was postponed after drivers and bus riders raised concerns about the impact on the commute. According to Metro Transit statistics, 30,800 riders daily use Aurora on the three major bus routes (E-Line, 5, and 16) and express buses. A WSDOT spokesperson said they are still trying to determine if buses will have to stop in the general purpose lanes. Thirty-six buses travel that stretch of Aurora every hour.
Aurora Avenue North will also be closed between the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel and Valley Street for part of Dec. 18-19. Northbound lanes will be closed from 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19. Southbound lanes will be closed 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18. – 7 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, but one lane will remain closed until 1 p.m. Contractor crews will be setting up a work zone between each direction of the highway.
As for the tunnel boring machine Bertha, WSDOT said Monday it is still expecting to resume drilling in late December after a two year hiatus for repairs. The target date for the opening of the tunnel to traffic is now April 2018. WSDOT released a video showing how much of the tunnel has been completed while Bertha has been idle.
It’s been nearly 15 years since the Nisqually earthquake which prompted the effort to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.