King County Metro Transit and the Seattle Department of Transportation are working on traffic flow changes at a busy downtown intersection to keep buses moving.
Work will begin next week to install a transit-only signal on westbound Columbia Street at First Avenue. This will give buses a head start on entering the Alaska Way Viaduct on-ramp at Columbia. In addition to the queue-jump signal, a new, short bus lane will be installed next to the curb lane on the north side of Columbia between First and Second avenues as a continuation of the bus lane from Third Avenue. This will help Metro with passenger pick up at the existing Second and Columbia bus stop, and will improve transit access to the on-ramp.
Traffic lanes and street parking on Columbia between First and Second will be reconfigured to accommodate the bus lane and improve traffic flow resulting in the loss of about 13 parking spaces and the relocation of one commercial load zone. Parts of Columbia will be repaved between Second and Fourth avenues.
The city and county are starting the project during the nine-day closure of the viaduct, since the Columbia ramp will also be closed at that time along with the bus stop at Second and Columbia. Work may linger into the week of Oct. 31, particularly if wet weather interferes.
The intersection of First and Columbia has become increasingly congested since the number of lanes on the southern section of the viaduct was reduced in May. That congestion is expected to continue after the nine-day closure, when traffic is diverted onto the new viaduct bypass which will have lower speed limits.
Metro estimates that more than half of the people using the Columbia ramp on weekday afternoons are passengers on buses. More than 3,700 bus riders travel through that spot during the afternoon and evening commute.
For more information:
Linda Thielke, Metro, (206) 684-1414 or Marybeth Turner, SDOT, (206) 684-8548