A New Era of Tough Traffic

Screenshot of the website says "The way you get around is changing. Over the next five years, Seattle's downtown will be in a state of transition to meet the need of our growing city."

As we build a better city together, how you get around is changing. Get ready for January 11, 2019!

Beginning with WSDOT’s permanent closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct on January 11 and continuing over the next three years, Seattle is entering a new era of tough traffic. Just before the new SR 99 tunnel opens to traffic in early February, travelers will experience the longest major highway closure the Puget Sound Region has ever seen—approximately three weeks without SR 99 in downtown Seattle.

Even after the new SR-99 tunnel opens, the tough times will continue. Traffic will forever change how it moves to and through downtown Seattle. Private and public megaprojects will continue to reduce capacity on our city streets and contribute to gridlock. We call this the “Period of Maximum Constraint.” SDOT and its partner agencies are working together to manage congestion during this challenging period, limit the impact on commuters and businesses, and keep downtown open for business.

It won’t be easy but, as we continue through this new era together, we will have a new SR 99 tunnel under downtown, a reimagined and reconnected waterfront with 20 acres of park, an expanded Washington State Convention Center, a new arena at Seattle Center, and more light rail to and from Seattle.

What can you do? Traffic disruption during this period is unavoidable, and commutes are going to get longer. Everyone traveling to and in Seattle needs to have a plan for commuting to work or school, appointments, and/or running simple errands.

What you can do:

  • Visit for all your Period of Maximum Constraint information and resources. Subscribe to travel time updates for the paths you take to get to and through Downtown Seattle and get fast connections to tips and tools from our partners at WSDOT, King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Commute Seattle.
  • If you can, explore alternative commutes like biking, walking, carpool, vanpool, or transit, including light rail and King County Water Taxi, if you can access it.
  • Avoid driving by yourself downtown but know that downtown remains open for business!
  • If you can, work from home or postpone discretionary trips. (We recognize that for some people these aren’t realistic options.)
  • Finally, please remain flexible and patient—we are all in this together!

Contributor Molly Wright is a public relations specialist at Seattle Department of Transportation.

This article originally appeared in AgeWise King County (December 2018), a monthly e-zine published by the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services.