Read our Seattle Squeeze Fact Sheet here. Check out our Seattle Squeeze Postcard, and print and share with your friends and families to spread the word! We also have translated versions of the postcards.
I thought the Seattle Squeeze was over. What’s happening now?
The Seattle Squeeze continues over the next four years, as significant private and public construction projects continue to make it difficult to get to and through downtown. You will probably experience it by longer and less predictable travel times for buses, trucks and cars.
Another big set of changes are now, and we want to help you be prepared. You can expect:
- Construction of the new Alaskan Way on the Waterfront
- A 10-week period of major light rail service reductions beginning in January 2020
- Tolling in the SR 99 tunnel
- More transit service – extra trips were added in September to help you get into downtown by bus in partnership with Metro and the Seattle Transportation Benefit District
This will all be worth it. We’re reconnecting downtown with our waterfront and building over 20 acres of public spaces. Bicycle and transit networks are expanding to give people access to downtown. Sound Transit’s Link light rail expansions will provide fast, predictable service to downtown from communities in the north and on the eastside, and private construction projects will continue to transform downtown Seattle.
What happened during Chapters 1 and Chapters 2 of the Seattle Squeeze?
The Seattle Squeeze kicked off on January 11, 2019, when the Alaskan Way Viaduct closed permanently and SR 99 through downtown Seattle remained closed for three weeks to align the highway into the new SR 99 tunnel.
The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel transitioned to Link light rail-only in March 2019, bringing more than 800 buses per day to surface streets.
How long will the Seattle Squeeze last?
Construction impacts will continue to constrain travel until LINK light rail opens to Northgate (2021), the East Side (2023) and Lynnwood, Redmond and Federal Way in 2024. In 2024, the project to rebuild and reconnect the Seattle Waterfront will also be complete.
What should I do?
We’re in this together. Stay informed by signing up today for alerts, and whenever possible, don’t drive alone. Take transit, ride a bike, or form a carpool to visit downtown. When working, be flexible and innovative by working from home, compressing your work week, coming early, or staying late. Thanks to the changes you made to how and when you get around during the January 2019 SR 99 closure, we got through the longest closure of a highway in the Puget Sound Region without total gridlock. We saw more people biking, taking the water taxi, teleworking and changing their travel times. While there were definitely challenging times and commutes, by working together, we got people and goods where they needed to go. And we need your help to keep it up.
Will there be more transit to help me get downtown?
Yes! Over 65,000 annual service hours were added on Metro routes on September 21, 2019 to expand the frequent transit network, address overcrowding, and improve reliability. And, 50,000 annual service hours funded by the Seattle Transportation Benefit District were invested into 22 routes. Added trips on routes serving downtown Seattle to address overcrowding and provide additional shoulder-peak service levels include the routes D, E, 1, 3, 5, 11, 14, 17, 21, 28, 36, 40, 41, 120, 218, 252, 255, and 311. Additional trips on routes connecting to Link light rail to connect riders to regional high-capacity transit were added to the routes 44, 48, 65, 67, 107, 271, 372, and 373.
When will tolling start in the SR 99 Tunnel?
Tolling in the SR 99 tunnel started on November 9. Rates range from $1 to $2.25, depending on the time of date, with a Good to Go! Pass. And the way to pay the lowest toll is with a Good to Go! Pass.
What’s happened to traffic since tolling started?
Traffic patterns changed with the permanent closure of the SR 99 Viaduct in January and then changed again when buses stopped using the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel in March. Tolls are resulting in changing downtown Seattle traffic patterns yet again. When tolling started, we expected the number of vehicles travelling through the tunnel to drop by as much as 30- to 50-percent, with as much as half of the current tunnel drivers choosing to leave the tunnel to go to I-5, Alaskan Way, or local streets. Since tolling started, we’re excited to see that lots of people are still using the SR 99 tunnel. So far, tunnel volumes are about 80-percent of what they were before the toll Volumes have increased on city streets near the tunnel, but to date, travel times and reliability are not greatly impacted.
For example, traffic volumes on Alaskan Way increased by about 20% in the first two weeks of tolling, the equivalent of about 5,000 more cars, but travel times increased just 3 to 4%. Traffic volumes on First Avenue also increased in both directions yet travel times slightly improved.
What is Connect 2020?
Connect 2020 is Sound Transit’s project to prepare for the 2023 opening of the Blue Line, which will provide one-seat light rail rides between Northgate (where light rail service will open in 2021) and Redmond’s Overlake area.
To build the connection between the existing light rail system in downtown Seattle out to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond, there will be ten weeks of around-the-clock heavy construction beginning January 3, 2020. During this time, track closures will significantly reduce light rail service, and both northbound and southbound riders traveling through downtown will have to use a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square to continue their journeys. Also during this time, there will be three full weekend closures of LINK in downtown Seattle on January 4-5, February 8-9 and March 15-16, with a free shuttle bus connecting riders between the SODO and Capitol Hill stations.
LINK riders are encouraged to visit https://connect2020.soundtransit.org/ to get the best information about traveling during Connect 2020.
Will there still be construction on the waterfront now that the Viaduct is demolished?
You bet! In 2019, Waterfront Seattle started construction of the new Alaskan Way, Elliott Way, and Columbia Street Two-Way Transit pathway in the footprint of the demolished viaduct. Throughout that construction, two-lanes of traffic on Alaskan Way will typically remain open. You can find out about what is happening on the Waterfront at the Waterfront Construction portal. Or, come on down and watch the Waterfront take shape!
What is happening on SR 520?
The SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project is reconstructing SR 520 in phases, primarily working from east to west. Beginning on Monday, November 11, SR 520 has been reduced from six lanes to four between Montlake and the floating bridge. The lane reduction will last for the next three to four years and is necessary for crews to remove the old eastbound lanes over Union Bay and construct a replacement bridge. You can find the latest that is happening with this project by visiting the SR 520 Construction Corner.
What is the City of Seattle doing about all of these traffic changes?
To keep people and goods moving safely and efficiently through Seattle, the City has five key strategies to manage congestion from 2019 through 2024:
What other changes are happening on downtown streets?
There is a lot happening in and around downtown and its always changing. Keep your eyes peeled and stay informed as we continually monitor and adjust to traffic conditions and events. For your best information, sign up for traffic alerts and follow SDOT on Twitter at @seattledot.
Got a question for us?
We are here to help! You can always send us an email at 684-ROAD@seattle.gov or call 206-684-ROAD.