Keeping the region moving through Seattle construction

As growth continues throughout the region, a number of major transportation projects will converge in downtown Seattle in a roughly three-year window, from late 2018 to the end of 2021:

  • occ-media-briefing-powepointDemolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and construction of a new Seattle waterfront,
  • Construction of a new downtown streetcar which will connect the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar lines via 1st Avenue and Stewart Street,
  • Continuing public and private construction, including expansion of the Washington State Convention Center set to begin in late 2018, and
  • The long-planned conversion of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to a rail-only facility. Relocating buses that now use the tunnel to surface streets will enable the extension of light rail to Northgate in 2021 and the Eastside and Lynnwood in 2023 – at which time light rail can operate every four minutes in each direction through the Center City, with four-car trains that can move up to 800 riders each.

four-agency-new_logosTo stay ahead of this convergence of projects and construction, King County Metro and Sound Transit are working closely with the city of Seattle and the Downtown Seattle Association to develop potential strategies that keep commuters from throughout the region moving. What happens in downtown Seattle matters to all of us. Without action, studies show the resulting congestion on downtown streets will slow cars and buses on major thoroughfares to a walking pace during the afternoon rush hour.
“One Center City” may refer to Seattle, but this is not Seattle’s problem alone. From the Eastside, for example, four of every 10 commuters take Metro and ST Express buses to work in downtown Seattle every weekday morning. That’s 8,000 from the Eastside needing a safe and reliable
way to move through Seattle construction; the numbers are similar for those from South King CountyOneCenterCity_logo_c_tagline.

The One Center City partnership is developing a 20-year vision for keeping people moving to and through the downtown core, with potential strategies to address congestion in the near-term:

  • Street and traffic improvements – These include priority transit treatment through downtown, channelization, signal timing, changes to curb uses, improvements to pedestrian walkways, and new protected bike lanes. KIRO-TV’s Graham Johnson takes an innovative and visual approach to showing the ideas for redirecting traffic by walking them for the viewer.
  • Transit service restructuring options – Bus routes now using the tunnel would be shifted to surface streets as soon as late 2018; others could be rerouted to connect with light rail stations at the north and south ends of downtown Seattle with transfer to and from congestion-free light rail.

These are potential strategies, not proposed service changes. They’re being shared with an Advisory Group, key stakeholders, community organizations and traditionally underserved populations. They’re also available at, where an online open house and comment form are available from now through February 17 EXTENDED THROUGH MARCH 3.

Nothing will be changed without listening to our customers, and a vote by elected officials. The four partner agencies will use input received in February to develop a
occ-facebook-ad-metropackage of recommended strategies for further  outreach and evaluation. Metro Transit and Sound Transit will conduct outreach over the coming year on potential changes to transit service, and no changes to transit service can be made without approval by the Metropolitan King County Council and the Sound Transit Board of Directors.

Please visit the open house now.

Published by

Frank Abe, King County DOT

Senior Strategic Communications Advisor to the Director of the King County Department of Transportation