Reprieve for bus riders in Seattle’s transit tunnel, but cascading projects to multiply traffic challenges

Delay in convention-center expansion adds time for tunnel buses, but that’s just one project in coming years that will likely worsen downtown Seattle traffic clogs before new light-rail stations open.

People traveling through Seattle will catch a rare break when the Metropolitan King County Council votes as early as Monday to let buses remain in the downtown transit tunnel until sometime in 2019.

Despite this reprieve of up to one year, bus detours and worse congestion will happen sooner or later.

How much hassle will people endure? Can government agencies make a useful plan to move traffic?

Detours ahead

Besides the closure of Convention Place Station, more projects will close or divert traffic in Seattle’s core:

Ferry terminal rebuild: Starting in Augustand finishing in 2023, to cause detours on and alongside Colman Dock.

First Avenue streetcar: Rails and new concrete to be installed in center lanes from 2018-20, if federal transit grants aren’t slashed by President Trump’s budget proposal.

• Madison Street bus-rapid transit: Includes a downtown loop where Alaskan Way meets Madison and Spring streets. Construction early 2018 to late 2019.

Highway 99 tunnel completion: Tube bypassing downtown may open sooner than early 2019 schedule. Permanent closures of Alaskan Way Viaduct, its mid-downtown and Belltown exits, and Battery Street Tunnel.

Viaduct demolition: Expected in 2019 after tunnel opens. Will cause cascading street closures.

KeyArena renovations: Oak View Group’s proposal, if approved, calls for construction January 2019 to September 2020.

• Waterfront Alaskan Way: To be rebuilt with promenades, more lanes and bike trails in 2019-23, after viaduct demolition.

SLU street grid: Harrison, Thomas and John streets to be extended across Aurora Avenue North in 2019-21 after tunnel opens.

Sources: One Center City government diagrams; Seattle Times reporting

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