The moment we’ve all be waiting for has arrived: Bertha, the tunneling machine that’s years behind schedule and millions over budget, will finally pass beneath the Alaska Way Viaduct. The viaduct closure will begin on Friday, April 29th so the gigantic machine can make its way underneath the famously fragile structure.
While engineers believe the machine can make the 385 foot journey under the viaduct without problems, the machine has travelled only 1,560 feet since it entered the ground in 2013. If Bertha can make the journey without encountering another unexpected pipe or causing a sinkhole, the viaduct closure should take two weeks.
That’s a blink of an eye on a transit project timeline, but a massive inconvenience for Seattle’s commuters. The shutdown, nicknamed “Viadoom,” will drastically change the travel plans of the drivers and passengers of the nearly 90,000 vehicles that makes trips on the viaduct each weekday. Since an earlier shutdown for maintenance in 2009, Seattle’s surface streets have become even more congested and its population has ballooned by more than 45,000 people.
Surviving Viadoom with your job and sanity intact will require some advance planning. Here are some ways to beat the rush:
1) If you’re a commuter, speak to your boss if your commute will be altered by the closure.
Some Seattle-area commuters may find that their routes remain unaffected by the shutdown, but workers who travel on the viaduct every day may have trouble getting to work on time during normal business hours. Make sure your boss knows where you’re coming from and can plan for unexpected delays.
2) If you’re an employer, talk to your employees about alternate plans during the shutdown.
If your store or office has any flexibility, now’s the time to exercise it. If employees can telecommute, make sure they’re all set up and ready to work remotely during the closure. Consider shifting schedules so employees can arrive and leave before or after peak rush hour. Collect information on which employees normally have to use the viaduct or nearby surface streets to get to work, and be understanding if they’re running late.
3) Check out your available public transit routes.
Seattle’s newly expanded train system runs from Seatac in the south to a northernmost stop in the University District. Because it has a seperate underground tunnel (shared for part of its route with buses), it shouldn’t be affected by the viaduct closure. Plan on crowds, and don’t count on getting a seat during the busy rush hour. The customary Seattleite personal space bubble is going to have to shrink on packed public transit. Buses will also be running, some on alternate routes, during the shutdown.
4) Share a vehicle.
Now is not the time to drive alone. If you have a neighbor who needs to commute to the same place, plan on carpooling to help reduce congestion. Consider participating in Metro’s vanpool program by using their program to get matched with commuters who share your route or looking for existing pools with open spaces for new riders. Have a smartphone? Check out the special Uber routes that commuters can share for a reduced price during the shutdown.
5) Use your own two feet—or wheels.
Even if you don’t normally take the viaduct, commuting into and out of downtown Seattle is going to be a tricky proposition. Avoid gridlock on packed roads by walking to work if you can. If you’re further away but still within biking distance, use your own bike or pick one up at a Pronto station. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket: the weather forecast is predicting warm days ahead, but a chance of showers.