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Buses get a jump on tunnel project street improvements
Starting this week, Metro buses are taking advantage of downtown Seattle street improvements that will help keep all traffic moving when the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) closes in September.
On Sept. 24, the tunnel will be closed for up to two years while it is retrofitted and upgraded for joint use by light rail trains and buses. In preparation for the DSTT retrofit, Sound Transit, the Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro Transit, and Community Transit are working together on an array of projects to keep downtown Seattle moving during the tunnel closure and beyond.
The Seattle Department of Transportation's (SDOT) Olive Way project is the first major downtown street improvement to come online as part of the $16 million mitigation package being carried out in connection with the closure of the tunnel. The new configuration for Olive Way speeds up the flow of buses between Interstate 5 and the downtown core during the afternoon commute.
The Olive Way project adds a transit-only lane between Fifth Avenue and Terry Street to help buses get to the freeway between 3-7 p.m., and ease congestion for all traffic. The new lane opened this week. For bus passengers, it should mean less time spent waiting to get onto I-5 and a speedier bus trip overall.
A transit contra-flow lane was also added on Ninth Avenue from Olive Way to Stewart Street to provide downtown access for buses coming from the freeway during the morning commute. A contra-flow lane is a dedicated lane where traffic travels in the opposite direction on what would otherwise be a one-way street.
SDOT has other street improvement projects underway at Prefontaine Place, Fourth Avenue South, Fifth Avenue South, and will soon be adding signage on Third Avenue to prepare it to become a transit-only corridor during the morning and afternoon commutes once the tunnel closes.
All of the projects now underway are designed to handle increased bus traffic on city streets during the tunnel closure. Approximately 140 buses per hour during peak commute times will be shifted to surface streets. The tunnel will re-open for buses no later than September 2007; light rail trains will join buses in the tunnel when the rail line opens in 2009.
In preparation for the tunnel closure, Metro crews are busy upgrading and adding new bus shelters throughout the central business district. By the end of summer, there will be 145 new or refurbished bus shelters downtown to serve the increase of transit passengers on the surface streets once the tunnel buses are re-routed.
Transit planners are also working on new routing for both the tunnel buses and the other routes serving downtown. Some of that information is now available on Metro Online, or by calling Metro Rider Information at 206-553-3000.