Between August 10th and 29th, drivers in western Washington will face one of the worst traffic headaches in the state’s history. Beginning Friday night, I-5 northbound between Spokane Street and the I-90 exit will be reduced to two or three lanes for construction. The lanes on I-5 will narrow to 10 feet wide and there will be no HOV or shoulder lanes. With the closures, officials are expecting traffic congestion that will affect Seattle and all surrounding regions. Here are some suggestions to help you avoid the backups:
• Drive on roads west of I-5. Many northbound roads, including Airport Way South, First Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South, Highway 99, and East Marginal Way South will have their stoplights retimed to make green lights longer along northbound routes. Other measures will also be taken by police and the Coast Guard to help the congestion.
•Use van pools. Van pools registered with transit agencies will have a special rate for the month of August. An eight person van will cost each rider $45, much cheaper then the normal rate of $81.50. Metro provides the van, gas, maintenance, and the insurance. These vans can also use the designated bus and truck lanes on streets like Airport Way South. For more info, visit http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/van-car/vanpool.html or call 206-625-4500.
• Travel on the Sounder. Sound Transit will add one round trip train to its commuter rail service. The new trip leaves Puyallup at 6:17 a.m. Four other trains start in Tacoma at 5:45a.m., 6:20 a.m., 6:48 a.m., and 7:10 a.m. Standing room only crowds are expected. Visit http://www.soundtransit.org/ for more information.
• Ride the Metro Bus. Unfortunately, there will be no extra Metro or Sound transit service added during August. Metro advises that the busses will be full and to expect delays. Although many park and rides will be full, there is usually room to park at the South Hill, Bonney Lake South, Tacoma Dome, Twin Lakes, Federal Way/320th Street, Federal Way Transit Center, Auburn, Redondo Heights, and Kent/James Street park and rides. For more info, visit http://transit.metrokc.gov/ or call 206-553-3000 for King County. For Pierce County, please visit http://www.soundtransit.org/.
• Several other options are to bike to your destination or use the Elliott Bay Water Taxi.
If you do decide to face the traffic, expect miles of backups. Models predict traffic jams to go well beyond Seattle, congestion to happen at every detour, and the morning commute to blend into the evening one. There will be no midday relief from traffic. For the DOT’s real time congestion map, please visit http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/seattle. The DOT is hoping that at least half of the usual northbound commuters will take vacation, van pool, car pool, change their work hours, take different routes or utilize transit options during the next several weeks.