Thursday, June 23, 2016

Southbound I-5 lane reductions will create big backups in July, August

By Tom Pearce

It’s no surprise that whenever we have to take away lanes on a roadway, traffic will back up and there will be delays. We’ve looked at what the backups are going to be when we reduce southbound I-5 to two lanes for five weekends: three in July in SeaTac and Des Moines and two in August in Tukwila.

It’s going to be rough during the #SouthKingSlowdown, even with drivers using alternate routes like I-405 and state routes 99, 167 and 509. We will need everyone’s help to try to keep congestion from turning from a manageable backup to a nightmare weekend drive.
State routes 99, 167 and 509 or I-405 can help
you get around the #SouthKingSlowdown

What to expect
We are going to see major traffic challenges each of these weekends, with backups potentially reaching several miles. Drivers should allow at least an extra hour of travel time between Seattle and the city of SeaTac between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. We also expect additional congestion on the alternate routes.

These estimates are based on 35 percent of drivers doing something different – delaying trips, using transit, carpools or vanpools or using other highways. That’s what we often see for a project like this. If more drivers use alternatives, backups and delays will be shorter, if not, well, we’ll see longer delays.

What can you do?
If you use southbound I-5 between Seattle and south King County, it’s time to start planning, especially if you’re going somewhere and you have to be on time – say, Sea-Tac International Airport. Whether you’re picking up someone or heading out on vacation yourself, being late to the airport can be a problem.

Here are some tips:
  • Allow plenty of time. Check WSDOT’s Mobile app and traffic maps. Follow @wsdot_traffic on Twitter.
  • Plan to use alternate routes like SR 99 or SR 509.
  • Take transit – Link light rail provides a more predictable trip than I-5 likely will on these weekends.

If your destination is somewhere other than the airport, these options can work as well. Also consider adjusting the time you travel (early or late are usually better bets), or stay close to home during the closures when possible.

There are other alternate routes to avoid southbound I-5 as well. From Renton you can go south on SR 167 and SR 99 works for people in Tukwila. In either case you can rejoin I-5 using either SR 516 or SR 18.

The bottom line is you need to plan ahead. We understand this is going to be hard on a lot of drivers, but this work must be done. I-5 is 50 years old; it was designed for 25 years. A few weekends of pain now will result in decades of a functional interstate.


Vince R said...

It is no surprise that your work causes backups.

Backups lead to safety issues for both your workers and our commuters.

One thing that I have noticed in the last two weeks is that there has been a lot of road maintenance that is really something that could easily be done at night or off hours that has lead to huge traffic backups and even an accident.

Specifically, painting lines on roads and placing reflectors. Both good things to do, both things that do not have to be done at rush hour. Both things I have witnessed being done at rush hour on arterial roads.

One accident was a direct result of this work.

I would like to suggest for our workers and our commuters that this kind of non-emergency work be schedule more responsibly, especially on arterial roads. The backup on one road for the placement of reflectors was about a mile and took all morning to clear.

Michael Waters said...

It would be very helpful if we were informed of specifically how far we need to take 99 S. in order to NOT enter back on I-5 IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRAFFIC JAM.

The map and the descriptions are vague.

Once one commits to an entrance, it's too late to reverse course when one sees a "parking lot" instead of an unobstructed freeway.

Lately, for similar LONG tie-ups, I've taken 99, but I've been unsure of when it's OK to re-enter I-5 as I proceed to Tacoma. Thus, I've driven (perhaps needlessly) all the way through Fife and then re-entered I-5.


Michael Waters said...

I've subscribed to the e mail notifications of accidents and delays on I-5, and the messages are helpful.

However, they'd be MORE helpful if they would state the degree to which traffic is stacked up.

Is the traffic managing to flow by at, say, 20 mph?

Are there two lanes free?

Is there a two mile back up?

The answers to these type of questions will make the e mails even more handy.


Vince R said...

It would be even better if the broadcasted traffic information used by GPS devices was working like it used to so it can pick the routes to avoid traffic automatically. Ever since GTG went in on 405, that section of the road no longer gives correct information.

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