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The Clog

The Clog, a blog on all things I-5 construction, will be your one-stop shop during the closure. It offers the latest news and updates, tips on alternate routes and transit, maps and gives you a chance to share your tales from the road. Check back for updates and read what others are saying.

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August 20, 2007 12:18 PM

Wet roads not slowing drivers; construction moves ahead

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Weather not slowing drivers

Wet weather may be slowing down construction work a bit on northbound Interstate 5 heading into Seattle, but it's not delaying commuters much this morning.

Spokane Street on-ramp reopens for daytime traffic tomorrow morning

Washington DOT says that crews continued to make progress replacing expansion joints over the weekend, but with the start of a new work just hours away, they worry complacent drivers will take to the road.

With only two lanes open to traffic for the duration of the project, they are encouraging drivers to use alternate routes, ride the bus or train, carpool, vanpool, work from home, postpone or alter trips and shift their schedules.

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August 17, 2007 8:17 AM

One rider: Sounder seemed less crowded today

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Janica Lockhart, a copy desk resident at the Seattle Times, reports on her Sounder commute this morning:

I left my house in North Auburn at 6:25 a.m. to catch the 6:52 a.m. train at Kent Station to King Street Station. Traffic was heavy through Auburn and Kent on Auburn Way North and Central Avenue, so I made it to the train station five minutes later than usual. I was able to catch the 6:52 a.m. train. Only a few people were left standing in the first car from Kent to King Street Station and it seemed less crowded than yesterday. The train arrived on time and I was able to catch my bus, Metro #70, to the downtown Seattle office and made it to work on time.

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August 17, 2007 7:28 AM

I-5 clogging; alternate routes urged

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Traffic is piling up on Interstate-5 in the construction area south of downtown Seattle. Drivers are encouraged to take less-congested alternative routes such as Airport Way, Highway 99 or First Avenue.

DOT says:

Crews moved traffic onto the east side of northbound I-5 overnight. Drivers will see a very different looking work zone with only two lanes on northbound I-5 open for this morning's commute. This configuration will continue through the end of the project.

With one less lane of traffic, drivers are encouraged to use alternate routes, ride the bus or train, carpool, vanpool, work from home, shift their schedules and plan ahead by using our alternate routes.

Drivers traveling in the far right lane will be diverted onto the collector-distributor roadway, which provides access to off-ramps to I-90, James St. and Madison St. but also reconnects with the I-5 mainline. Drivers using the collector-distributor will be able to stay in two lanes as they rejoin mainline I-5, unlike today's single lane.

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August 16, 2007 4:01 PM

Lanes reopended where brush fire caused -5 lane closures near SeaTac

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

UPDATE, 5:00 p.m. -- Transportation crews have reopened all lanes of I-5 after a brush fire broke out next to the freeway near SeaTac.

The ramps at South 200th Street are still closed, but the flames have been put out, according to the Department of Transportation.

The transportation department closed up to two lanes of the freeway while SeaTac fire crews battled the blaze.


Southbound traffic on Interstate 5 near SeaTac is backed up to Tukwila as emergency crews fight a brush fire on the side of the road.




Two lanes are closed, and Travis Phelps, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, says motorists should take alternate routes until the fire is out.

"This thing is kicking up a lot of smoke," Phelps said. "This backup might take a while to clear."

The fire stretches from South 188th Street to South 200th Street, said Virgina Mercado of the SeaTac Fire Department. Firefighters were also blocking Military Road to protect apartments on the corner of South 200th Street.

"It's terrible," said Mercado. "They don't even have visibility."

By Seattle Times staff

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August 16, 2007 12:00 PM

Sound transit ridership continues to drop

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Ridership on Sound Transit's trains continues to drop. While 6,719 commuters rode the train on Monday morning, the first work day of the Interstate-5 construction work that closed lanes of I-5, ridership has dropped throughout the week and only 4,815 people rode the train this morning. But that's still higher than the average ridership of 3,371.

by Susan Gilmore

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August 16, 2007 9:18 AM

Photo: A look at the expansion joints

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

This picture was taken by John Hanna, a structural engineer overseeing the I-5 project. It is of one of the expansion joints that is being repaired:


Hanna had this to say:

We are ahead of schedule and the delays will soon be over and the roadway bridges will be safer than before. Please know that if it wasn't for the hard work performed by the union Ironworkers, this project would not be ahead of schedule. This coming labor day, when the I-5 freeway is open and safe, please take a moment to thank these dedicated tradesmen and women.

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August 15, 2007 7:06 PM

Commuter train ridership drops

Posted by blog

Ridership fell this morning on the Sounder commuter trains, as hundreds of people apparently reverted to driving, and some possibly to express buses, to take advantage of the relatively uncrowded highways.

A total 4,956 people rode the five trains to Seattle, or got off in south-end suburbs, this morning. That's 864 fewer than Tuesday, and 1,763 fewer than the record 6,719 riders who filled the morning trains on Monday, the first weekday of the big I-5 project.

Still, the trains are still drawing a bigger crowd than usual; Sound Transit says that on a typical May weekday, 3,371 people took morning Sounder trips on the south-end line.

Transit spokeswoman Linda Robson said the trains will take on renewed importance Thursday morning, when a third lane closes on northbound Interstate 5 near Spokane Street, in the next phase of construction. She said there is plenty of space at four temporary park-and-ride lots that are going virtually unused: in downtown Kent, Sumner High School, the fairgrounds in Puyallup, and a Tacoma Dome surface parking lot.

Increased transit use is helping the region avoid severe gridlock, but greater numbers of commuters continue to bypass I-5 by detouring, canceling unnecessary trips, telecommuting, or taking time off work.

More information at

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August 15, 2007 2:03 PM

I-5 ahead of schedule by 5 days

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The state Department of Transportation and contractor Concrete Barrier said today they are ahead of schedule on the Interstate 5 repair work and expect to finish work on northbound Interstate 5 in Seattle by 5 a.m. Aug. 25" five days ahead of schedule.

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August 15, 2007 6:45 AM

DOTS says thanks, remember to stay off I-5

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

As the big Interstate 5 construction project enters its third weekday, transportation officials are hoping commuters will avoid what seems like a temptingly clear freeway.

For the second workday in a row, traffic volumes remained lighter than normal with minimal backups during the afternoon commute through the northbound I-5 construction zone. However, traffic volumes on I-5 and two key alternate routes increased over Monday's afternoon and early evening commute.

Compared to Monday, afternoon and evening volumes increased 10 percent on I-5 at Boeing Access Road, seven percent on SR 99 at the First Avenue S. Bridge and four percent on I-405 in north Renton.

"We need drivers to stay the course, or we'll be in for a very slow commute," said Mark Leth, traffic engineer for the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which is repairing and resurfacing a mile of the northbound freeway at South Spokane Street.

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August 14, 2007 3:46 PM

Pass the farebox, please

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

This week's record crowds at the Elliott Bay Water Taxi made the boats late to leave West Seattle on Monday. So operators solved the problem by using a "mobile farebox," so people could pay while they waited in line to board.

It resembles a bus farebox, mounted on a metal stand and carried around by a wheeled handtruck, said Josh Gillanders, a water taxi boat captain.

Today, 401 people rode the water taxi downtown by 9 a.m., down from 587 trips on Monday. One theory is that many transit users stayed on buses, rather than transfer to the boat at Seacrest Marina, said Linda Thielke, spokeswoman for King County Metro Transit.

Farther south, Metro's express buses into Seattle attracted 300 to 400 more riders than the normal 7,300 or so, similar to Monday. Buses were delayed about six minutes because they detoured from I-5 onto other streets, Thielke said.

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August 14, 2007 11:43 AM

Pinch point found, traffic light lengthened

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Although the south Seattle commute remained mild this morning, the city Department of Transportation noticed a pinch point at the north end of the First Avenue South bridge, where Highway 99 and East Marginal Way South converge. (State traffic maps showed the area as "red," meaning heavy traffic.)

The intersection became congested enough that the city increased the length of its green signals northbound, said SDOT spokesman Gregg Hirakawa.

"This project still has many more days to go. People should not be complacent, thinking traffic is not a problem," he said. If everyone jumps back into a car, backups will occur, he said.

Two lanes of Interstate 5 remain closed as contractors resurface the northbound pavement near Spokane Street. A third lane could close as early as Thursday, if the construction continues to run ahead of schedule, state transportation officials have said.

So far, thousands of people have prevented gridlock by staying home from work, using transit, or taking different routes.

by Mike Lindblom

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August 14, 2007 6:58 AM

No clog just yet

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The scare tactics worked as commuters gave transit a try yesterday and a potential traffic nightmare turned into one of the easiest weekday drives of the year.

Spurred by warnings of gridlock as far south as Tacoma, commuters by the thousands packed commuter trains or drove alternate routes Monday.

Though one reader, Carrie from Seattle, had this to say:

Despite the ease of this morning's commute, I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. My fear is that people will say to themselves, "All of these warnings about construction-related traffic were much ado about nothing" and then resume their normal driving patterns. Then we'll get the clogged roads. Maybe it will happen tomorrow, maybe it won't happen until next week, but I'm sure it's coming...

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August 13, 2007 6:57 PM

Baseball fans pass first home-game test

Posted by blog

Mariners fans seem to have planned ahead and mostly avoided the traffic woes Monday.

Traffic-monitoring crews observed far fewer cars on highways and city streets than is typical for a Mariners game, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meghan Soptich said.

"From what I've heard it's been really smooth," she said.

The Mariners had an advisory about the traffic on their Web site and the Department of Transportation warned people as well, Soptich said.

"Looks like it was far lighter than usual for a Mariners game," she said. "People have been listening."

By Brian Alexander

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August 13, 2007 3:32 PM

Half number of regular drivers on I-5 this morning

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The DOT thanks drivers for staying off I-5:

The Monday morning commute went smoothly on northbound I-5 and alternate routes. WSDOT engineers estimate approximately 3,300 vehicles per hour on northbound I-5 south of downtown Seattle during the morning commute, which is about half of average Monday morning traffic volumes.

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August 13, 2007 10:37 AM

Taking in the "scenery" on the morning commute

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Commuter Jen Rittenhouse had an interesting angle on her commute today:

Calling at single ladies! I-5 construction got you down? Dreading the early morning wake up to catch the Sounder? It might be worth your while to get your beauty rest and spend a few extra minutes primping in the wee hours of the morning...riding the wave this a.m. were young, handsome and potentially single men by the car ful! Construction workers, and businessmen and bicyclists...oh my!

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August 13, 2007 9:59 AM

With short delay, 161 makes it downtown

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Even with the detour off Interstate 5, Metro's 161 bus managed to make it downtown with only a 20-minute delay. The bus moved quickly through South King County, but downtown Seattle was more problematic, with lines of buses clogging the roads.

There was more camaraderie than usual on Monday's commute, with passengers poring over a print-out of the bus detour, and reading it aloud to the driver, Marilyn Gary. It was Gary's first time driving the 161, which was full, but not standing-room.

Eric Chau, of Tukwila, and Tiffany Guinn, of Kent, guided her from East Marginal Way South to Fourth Avenue South until the Seattle skyline came into view.

"I think you can take it from here," said Chau, a regular on the bus, smiling.

At one point, a passenger new to town realized he was on the wrong bus. Gary called out that she was new to all this, too. Then she offered to pull over and let him off.

"They're helping me," she said, pointing to Chau and Guinn. "I'm helping you."

Intense media coverage of the construction on Monday had some passengers anticipating the worst. Keri Woolery, of Renton, brought an extra thermos of coffee, just in case.

"I was all geared up for a long commute," she said.

Gary herself imagined "bumper to bumper, back-to-back, standing traffic." But there was nothing of the sort. Not until the 161 reached Seattle, where long lines of buses clogged downtown.

"It wasn't that bad after all," said Guinn.

One by one, the passengers finished their commute. There were compliments for Gary, on how well she navigated the detour. Words of thanks went both ways.

"Thank you for your help," said Gary, to the passengers at the front of the bus. "I really appreciate it."

by Cara Solomon

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August 13, 2007 9:40 AM

Photo: Alaskan Way viaduct this morning

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Commuters cruise northbound along the Alaskan Way viaduct early Monday morning:


Photo by Thomas James Hurst, The Seattle Times

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August 13, 2007 9:31 AM

Maybe the best commute ever

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Heidi Brown, art director for, reports on her commute:

I live in the Renton Highlands, and it normally takes me about 45 minutes to get to work. I decided to leave about the same time I usually do (8 a.m.) to see what traffic would be like. I travel up Coal Creek and hop on I-90 and then off at I-5, and I stuck with my normal commute. I think it was the fastest commute I've had, about 30 minutes. Traffic is usually slow getting onto I-5 from I-90 (can take about 10 minutes to get through the mess), but since I-5 is closed south of that, it was a breeze. Now I'm just concerned that commuters will see how good the traffic was and it will get bad.

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August 13, 2007 9:02 AM

Video: Water taxi carries heavy loads

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

"We had 67 passengers on the first run, which is larger than our normal, largest commuter run... 135 on the second, which is close to our normal heavy, heavy runs on a Saturday afternoon. So, definitely a lot of passengers today. We're probably going to see boats at full capacity this afternoon said Stacey Lary, captain of Elliott Bay Water Taxi

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August 13, 2007 8:41 AM

DOT: Commuters speeding through work zones; construction ahead of schedule

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The relatively fast traffic through the Interstate 5 work zone is making Paula Hammond, the state's interim transportation secretary, a bit nervous about the chance of collisions there.

"When I approach a work zone, I usually hit the brakes. I was just surprised at how people were driving at freeway speeds because they could, with little regard for a backup that may be 100 yards up the road. I didn't see fender-benders; maybe they knew what they were doing. It could get dicey if we add more traffic up there. The real problem is, once you have a rear-ender, and only three lanes open, you can multiply the delay times six," she said.

Of course, that dilemma means the freeway system is functioning fairly well.

Hammond said there is some congestion on Interstate 405, and she expects some drivers on Tuesday will revert back to I-5, where three lanes are currently available.

Construction crews this morning are ahead of schedule, she said, and are now installing the ninth and 10th of the planned 34 expansion joints on the right side of the freeway deck. Actually, these are half-joints, because the other halves must be installed on the left side in a few days.

That work might begin Thursday or Friday instead of Monday as scheduled, and then drivers would shift to the right side, said Hammond.
The shift would make I-5 tighter, with only two lanes. But the project could be done sooner.

By Mike Lindblom

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August 13, 2007 8:35 AM

"No mess to avoid"

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Reporter Cara Solomon stopped for breakfast after her bus-commute from Kent, and met Kim Davis, already at work this morning in downtown Seattle.

Davis says she caught her Metro Transit 113 bus near White Center a half-hour earlier than usual because she anticipated serious delays. "I was trying to avoid the mess and there was no mess to avoid," she said.

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August 13, 2007 8:24 AM

Alternate routes 6 minutes longer than I-5 for one reporter

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Reporter Sara Jean Green left Kentridge High School at 6:56 a.m., the same time as colleague Susan Gilmore, who took Interstate 5. Here's Green's report on the drive up, using alternate routes:

Leaving Kentridge High at 6:56 a.m. and driving west along Southeast 208th Street, it took five minutes to get to 68th Avenue South, which turns into Highway 181 or the West Valley Highway.

From there, heading north along the West Valley Highway, it took another five minutes to reach the Interstate 405 interchange at South 156th Street -- likely a few minutes later than usual thanks to a truck driver who insisted on driving 10 mph below the 50 mph speed limit. Still, it was a fairly clear shot to the Boeing Access Road, which was reached at 7:16 a.m.

From the Boeing Access Road, driving north on Airport Way South, it took five minutes to reach Albro Street in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhood and another three minutes to get to Spokane Street and the West Seattle Bridge. Though there was slight congestion at the bridge, traffic was still moving well. The biggest backup came after turning west onto Dearborn Street and waiting for the light to continue north on Fourth Avenue. After making the turn onto Fourth Avenue at 7:31 a.m., it took five minutes to reach Westlake Center at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pine Street.

by Sara Jean Green

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August 13, 2007 8:20 AM

Standing room only on Sounder from Tukwila

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Regular riders of the Sounder train this morning found themselves on their feet for the first time.

"I guess we are getting a little taste of New York," said Angelo Acab, on his regular commute from the Kent station. "I was not expecting this. I'm usually sitting down, taking a nap right now."

Sound Transit employees said they were running out of schedules for all the first-time riders curious about the afternoon schedule. One worker said the first train of the morning had more than 2,000 passengers, compared to 800 to 900 on the average day.

Cheryl Muskelly, riding in a seat that Acab gave up for her, said she had never seen such a crowd on the train. Even with the crowd, she added, she was glad to be avoiding the uncertainties about traffic that come with a commute by car or bus.

"I'm just happy to be on time," she said. "A lot people have no idea when they're getting in."

by Brad Haynes, The Seattle Times (who caught the train at 7:27 a.m. in Tukwila)

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August 13, 2007 8:17 AM

Heavy loads on ferries

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Reporter Susan Gilmore drove up from Kent this morning. She just checked in with Washington State Ferries this morning to see how ferry traffic is going:

Heavy loads were reported on the Kitsap Peninsula ferries. Mike Anderson, director of the state ferries, said passengers need to show up 15 minutes earlier than usual to get on the ferries.

The problem is aggravated in Bremerton, where the state replaced the usual ferry with a smaller one, which has less room for cars, but more for passengers.

Today the 4:50 a.m. and the 7:20 a.m. sailings were full from Bremerton. Anderson said boats on the Kingston, Southworth and Bainbridge Island ferries also were full today.

"This is not a significant impact for us," he said. "We typically overload, but it's happening 15 minutes earlier than normal today."

He doesn't know whether the afternoon commute will have the same problem, since the Interstate 5 construction work is on the northbound side of the freeway and some ferry riders may choose to drive home.

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August 13, 2007 8:08 AM

Commute in all forms easy from West Seattle

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Here's how the morning went, according to Mike Lindblom, Times' transportation reporter, who biked in from West Seattle:

The commute in all its forms was easy from West Seattle to downtown this morning.

A bike ride from the Junction area to South Lake Union required just over 30 minutes, and there wasn't any road rage. Judging by the pre-construction hype, there should have been many cars buzzing past the bike lane on East Marginal Way South, but traffic there was lighter than usual. Cars on the Alaskan Way Viaduct sped freely.

I approached nine other cyclists on the trail, and saw another 20 or so going east-west, or reverse-commuting southbound.

Most likely, they would have all been out riding anyway. One said he was a visiting physical therapist from Anacortes, heading to Elliott Avenue North for a class. He got another education on East Marginal, where cyclists wait for a lull in the truck traffic to cross the road, to reach the bike lane. "Usually, I only see four cars on an entire trip," he said.

One perk of bicycling is the last climb, up the huge cobblestones of Blanchard Street from Western Avenue to Belltown. Even there, the streets seemed emptier than normal.

By Mike Lindblom

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August 13, 2007 8:02 AM

Photo: Busy King Street station

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Seattle Times' Suki Dardarian sends this cell phone photo from King Street Station:


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August 13, 2007 7:55 AM

Water taxi standing room for extra load

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

On the 6:50 a.m. water taxi from West Seattle, reporter Ko Im talked with passenger Tom Parks.

Said Parks, "I heard the commute was going to be really bad today. So I decided, probably last weekend, to go this route...
The risk that the bus going to get stuck in traffic was the big factor."

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August 13, 2007 7:52 AM

Smooth I-5 commute up from Kent

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

On Interstate 5, traffic moved smoothly for reporter Susan Gilmore, who left Kentridge High School at 6:56 a.m. Yes, she beat colleague Cara Solomon (she's taking the bus) into downtown Seattle, and reporter Sara Jean Green, who took alternate routes.

Says Gilmore: The 20 miles from Kentridge High School in Kent to Westlake Center took just 34 minutes, via Orillia Road, and the only slow traffic was through the I-5 construction zone, where speeds dropped to 40 mph. Most of the trip was at the speed limit, even though the road was filled with trucks.

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August 13, 2007 7:49 AM

Metro moving swiftly

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Cara Solomon is still aboard the 161, moving swiftly with traffic on East Marginal Way South. One of her fellow riders this morning is Vance Elliott, of Kent, who is trying the bus today and will likely try a train tomorrow to see which works better for him. Elliott, who works at the Polyclinic, says he was a faithful transit rider, but he switched to driving because the schedules didn't fit his needs.

He went back to transit this morning, saying, "I don't like driving with a bunch of crazy people, anyway. When they pack them down to two lanes it's that much worse."

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August 13, 2007 7:24 AM

Metro bus has about usual load

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Reporter Cara Solomon, on Metro Transit Bus 161, heading to downtown Seattle, got on near Kentridge High School just before 7 a.m..

On board was Michelle Sylvester, a regular rider, who said she considered taking the Sounder train because she thought it might be faster. She decided on the bus, though, because "I just thought (Sounder) was going to be so packed."

The bus had about the usual load of passengers, riders are telling Solomon.

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August 13, 2007 6:38 AM

Reporting in from the Sounder: Light crowds in Tacoma

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

UPDATE (9:20 a.m.) -- By the time the Sounder arrived in Auburn and Kent, however, it was standing room only as people boarded the train.

King Street Station was busy, as were the many, many buses serving King Street to other parts of the city.

My bus (MT 191) to Denny, however, was totally empty by the time I disembarked.

Danielle Hill, of Tacoma, was on the Sounder this morning. She usually works four 10 hour shifts at her work in Tukwila, but has shifted her schedule to five days and plans to take the train for the rest of the month.

She's been commuting north for about four years, and used to take the Sounder for about a year and a half. Now she drives most days.

She's familiar with the route and estimated the crowd in Tacoma was about average this morning.

_________________________________________'s Tiffany Campbell reports that she is sitting on Sounder's 6:48 a.m. train with only 15 in her car, including herself. This car generally seats about 35 people. She is headed from the Tacoma Dome Station to King Street Station, and reports her car contains few first-time riders.

KING5-TV, meanwhile, reports that officials are saying the trains are running at about 75 percent occupancy.

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August 13, 2007 6:22 AM

How was your Monday commute? The Clog wants to know . .

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Did you encounter traffic on a well-planned alternate route? Smooth sailing on I-5? Bus, train, bike? The Clog wants to know. In fact, we want you to call us at 206-464-2144 and leave a message with your cheers and jeers about your experience. We'll use your audio right here our blog.

And if you don't like the phone, you can leave a note here.

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August 13, 2007 6:13 AM

I-5 moving, alternate routes appear clogged

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Early bird commuters hitting the first Monday morning found traffic slow-going but moving on Interstate 5 and on the West Seattle Bridge, but Highway 99 and I-509 were jamming up, according to television station King5. They are also reporting that ferries and the water taxi are full; I-405 is very heavy.

King's live coverage is here.

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August 12, 2007 7:33 AM

Real-time traffic cams on your phone, DOT mashups

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

For all of the frustration directed to the DOT around The Mess they may perhaps deserve credit for one thing: updating their Web site. Though not entirely uncommon for most DOT sites around the country Washington DOT has real-time offerings in a myriad of forms, platforms.

A very useful one for those stuck in traffic is the mobile version of the DOT site that offers the view from virtually all intersections of I-5. Though The Clog does not advise that drivers browse AND drive, we hear it's not uncommon in Seattle. (Clog advice: email this entry to yourself so you can access the mobile link from your phone).

A tool that also seems really useful specifically during The Mess (though one would need to be sitting at a desktop-like computer to get the true benefit) is a real-time dispatch-styled account of repairs paired with a Google map laced with traffic cam links.

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August 12, 2007 6:21 AM

Rains could throw wrench in Mess today

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Crews are on schedule and traffic is moving in The Mess but DOT warns a wet Sunday could throw the construction near downtown Seattle off track.

Keeping it dry: If it does pour, workers will have a giant blow dryer available by 8 a.m. Sunday. The dryer will be ready to go when the rain stops to dry the bridge deck near the I-90 exit so crews can apply the polyester paving material.

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August 10, 2007 10:19 PM

Lane closures are in place

Posted by blog

By 10:45 p.m., the lane closures northbound of Interstate 5 were complete, including the shut-down of on-ramps from South Columbian Way and the West Seattle Bridge. Crews were bringing in equipment and concrete barriers to separate the construction areas from the traffic lanes.

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August 10, 2007 5:31 PM

Local eateries offer rush-hour dining specials

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Looking for a way to kill time before you brave the evening rush hour during the shutdown? Several eateries around Seattle have assembled special happy hours or menus to help you survive the next few weeks.

Here's a taste:

BOKA Kitchen & Bar (1010 First Ave., 206-357-9000) has renamed its happy hour Rush Hour for the month of August and will run later to accommodate waylaid commuters, 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The featured drink is the Traffic Jam," a blend of Bacardi Rum, fresh muddled raspberries and mint for $5. And the bar menu, which features wagyu beef burgers with truffle fries, a gruyere grilled cheese sandwich with tomato bisque soup and scallop ceviche, is half price.

Downtown Seattle's Fairmont Olympic Hotel (411 University Street in Seattle) is offering a $45, traffic themed three-course dinner at The Georgian with complimentary valet parking during the shutdown. The hotel's Terrace Lounge will serve a special I-5'er Martini (blended with Red Bull, for those of you trying to keep your eyes open). They spared no cuteness for dinner: Spokane Street Caesar Romaine Bumper-to-Bumper with Lobster Caesar Dressing, Horn Honking Smoked Salmon with Pothole Smashed Potatoes or I-90 Farms "Free Range" Chicken, Honking Honey Corn Cake, Jammed-Up Beans and Tail Light Delight Black and White Souffle. Reservations are available at 206-621-7889 or through

West Seattle's Skylark Cafe & Club (206-935-2111, 3803 Delridge Way S.W.) is offering all-day happy hour Tuesday through Sunday until Labor Day, with $2.50 draft beers, $2.50 well drinks and $2.50 house wines. General manager Matthew Darling isn't too concerned about the shutdown personally: He lives only two blocks from work. But he hopes anyone stranded between Point A and Point B will take refuge at his eatery and use his free wi-fi.

"We are encouraging telecommuters to stay in West Seattle," he said.
Know of other places to hide out from The Clog? Share them in the comments.

by Karen Gaudette

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August 10, 2007 4:20 PM

Airport has plan to make cab fares a little cheaper

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Taking a cab from Sea-Tac Airport? The airport has a plan to make the fare a little cheaper.

They've hired "starters" to stand outside the airport cab stand and match travelers with their destinations. When the starter calls out a destination, like Seattle Sheraton or Queen Anne, the passengers are to raise their hands and the trips will be coordinated.

Passengers will be responsible for figuring out how to split the fares, and there is a 50-cent charge for each additional passenger in a cab. The airport warns with all the road construction, trips will be slower and fares will be higher.

by Susan Gilmore

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August 10, 2007 4:06 PM

Metro offers transit tips: "Be patient, prepared"

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

King County Metro Transit is offering some last-minute travel tips for coping with the freeway lane closures.

Here are some highlights (full list here):

-- avoid driving alone through the construction zone and major detour routes
-- ride the bus from a large park-and-ride lot served by multiple bus routes
-- travel earlier or later
-- plan your trip out for the weeks ahead

"Our advice to everyone is to be patient, be flexible, and be prepared for traffic conditions to change frequently," said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond.

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August 10, 2007 12:34 PM

DOT biting nails, prepping for closure

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The state transportation department has been gearing up for the looming Interstate-5 construction project as if it were a major snowstorm. One of its boardrooms has been turned into an emergency operations center, the type that would be set up if the region got blasted by snow.

There, engineers and communication staff will be monitoring fender benders, construction progress and stalled cars throughout the 19-day project. Despite all the preparation, nerves are tense about the things out of human control.
"We're very nervous about the weather," said transportation secretary Paula Hammond.

If it rains even a bit, road crews won't be able to use epoxy for the paving. The contractor has factored in a little wiggle room for delays like weather, Hammond said, but it must be completely dry for that part of the project to get done. The construction project on northbound I-5 is just hours away, and at 10 p.m., freeway lanes will be closed around the clock till August 29.

By Christina Siderius

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August 10, 2007 11:30 AM

Real-time traffic update tool for commuting

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Here is a cool web resource for your commute. It's a tool that lets you outline your routes and then identifies the "jam factors" for each. You can then personalize delivery of this information by setting it to email, call or RSS with information about your route at a certain time each day.

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August 10, 2007 6:01 AM

Can't stand traffic? Try shopping

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The Downtown Seattle Association doesn't want you to be stuck in traffic during The Mess. Rather, it would like you to take advantage of the plethora of retailers who are offering deals to would-be commuters in the way of after-work specials:

Why stress and sit in traffic when you can enjoy some great shopping, dining and entertainment! Twenty member businesses are offering special promotions, offers and incentives to entice you to stay in Downtown a little longer before heading out in the rush hour traffic.

Here are some highlights (and full list here):

Pacific Place:
"Why hassle with the grind! Pacific Place is the place for shopping, dining and entertainment. Stop by the Concierge Desk on Level 1 to receive some tasty dining offers"

Republic Parking: (Metropolitan Park North Garage)
"Republic Parking's Metropolitan Park North Garage is expanding its Early Bird Special so commuters can stay & play in Downtown after work! For only $8, drivers who park before 9:30am can stay as late as 10pm at no additional cost."

The Red Lion Hotel on Fifth Avenue:
"Located on Fifth Avenue between Pike & Union Streets, everything you could want is right outside our front door - restaurants, shopping, theatres, tourist attractions and entertainment venues! You'll enjoy all the comforts of "home away from home" in one of our 297 guest rooms"

Pande Cameron:
"From August 10-31, Pande Cameron will offer 15% off any purchase of in stock inventory."

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August 10, 2007 5:36 AM

Motorcyclists forbidden to weave between car lanes

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The Washington State police said yesterday that the splitting of traffic lanes by motorcycles is not permitted and no exception will be made during the I-5 closure.

Each lane of travel is designated for only one vehicle per lane at a time. Attempting to pass on the lane dividers between two vehicles side-by-side is prohibited. Any aggressively driven motorcycles participating in this maneuver will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The police also noted that the HOV lane restriction has not been lifted nor will the enforcement of this restriction be waived during the I-5 closure.

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August 9, 2007 3:41 PM

I-405 Construction in Bellevue, Kirkland Aug. 10-17

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik


Next week DOT crews will prepare to expand the I-405 bridge over Coal Creek Parkway. Work will include placing a temporary barrier and performing electrical, survey and utility work.

Lane closures will be limited on northbound I-405 due to a round-the-clock, nineteen day closure of three lanes on northbound I-5.

Construction closures affecting I-405 traffic in Bellevue the week of August 10-17 include:

I-405 Mainline: Wednesday and Thursday nights, one northbound lane between 112th Ave SE and Coal Creek Parkway from 10 p.m. each night to 4 a.m.

Ramps: Monday night, crews will close the ramp from Coal Creek Parkway to northbound I-405 from 8 p.m. each night to 4 a.m. Thursday night, crews will close one lane of the ramp from southbound I-405 to Coal Creek Parkway from 10 p.m. each night to 4 a.m. each following morning. At the same time, WSDOT will turn off signal lights at the interchanges between Coal Creek Parkway and the on- and off-ramps so crews can do electrical and other utility work.


The DOT will install signs, inspect pavement and pave sections of the roadway in Kirkland. Lane closures will be limited on northbound I-405 due to a round-the-clock, nineteen day closure of three lanes on northbound I-5.

Construction closures affecting I-405 traffic in Kirkland the week of August 10-17 include:

I-405 Mainline: Drivers should expect daily closures of the far right southbound lane between NE 85th and NE 116th Streets (except during rush hours) while crews inspect pavement and install signs. Sunday through Thursday nights, crews will close up to three southbound lanes from NE 85th Street to NE 116th Street to install signs, inspect pavement and restripe the roadway. Crews will close the first lane at 7 p.m. each night with up to three lanes closed by 11 p.m. All southbound lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. each following morning. Expect closures of the southbound HOV lane except during morning rush hours while crews work on the new HOV ramps north of the NE 128th Street bridge.

I-405/NE 116th Street Interchange: Sunday through Thursday nights, crews will close the northbound off-ramp to NE 116th Street from 9 p.m. each night to 5 a.m. each following morning to pave a section of the roadway and install signs. Monday through Thursday nights, crews will close NE 116th Street in both directions where it passes under I-405 in Kirkland from 9 p.m. each night to 5 a.m. each following morning to place architectural panels and paint the I-405 bridge.

Kirkland streets affected by I-405 construction: 116th Avenue NE is closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic from NE 128th Street south to McDonalds until October 2007.

For more information.

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August 9, 2007 12:51 PM

Expert prediction: Moderately worse than usual

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

At least one traffic expert predicts that northbound I-5 will not see crippling traffic jams Monday morning (see maps below).


8:00 a.m. prediction:

People are well-informed and they will react to news about construction closures by avoiding the area, says Oliver Downs, principal scientist for Kirkland-based Inrix. The company produces real-time traffic updates, as well as predictions, for the Internet, cellphones and navigation devices. Its clients include trucking firms and other transportation-industry clients. Inrix's mathematical models take into account historical data about past accidents or incidents -- for instance, how motorists respond when Interstate 90 closes for a Blue Angels flyover.

The state Department of Transportation has speculated that I-5 backups could be 10 miles, 20 miles or longer.

"Our simulation isn't as pessimistic," says Downs, who forecasts that as of 8 a.m. Monday:

-- Traffic entering Seattle from the south will be only moderately worse than usual.
-- Highway 599 is "green" all the way to the First Avenue South Bridge -- a clue that "we'll see more avoiding than detouring," Downs says.
-- Interstate 405 will be stop-and-go through Renton, while Highway 520 is somewhat slower than normal, as people try to bypass the work area.

On Monday night, the Seattle Mariners' baseball game will increase congestion, of course, especially on Highway 99.

6:00 p.m. prediction:

But his forecast comes with one severe warning:

There could be a tenfold increase in blocking stalls or accidents, Downs says, because of narrow 10-foot lanes, visual distractions, "aggressive behavior," and a lack of shoulders. And the effects of a blocked lane would be magnified. He said the state knows this, so it is boosting State Patrol presence and incident-reponse trucks, and green screens will block driver views of the construction crews.

Inrix offers a standard, free 30-day trial of its "Inrix Traffic" for Windows mobile devices -- including traffic maps, speeds, and alerts ­-- at

Meanwhile, Seattle-based TrafficGauge is waiving some fees on its handheld map device, which shows congested areas as easy-to-read bold or flashing black lines; and it is offering free data for cellphones and personal computers.

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August 9, 2007 5:47 AM

Commuters: What stress?

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

It would seem almost like news of the weird, a surprising new Atlanta-based study has found that commuting to and from work — something thought to cause drivers stress — actually has a calming effect on many.

The recent study involved measuring cortisol levels in saliva of commuters in Atlanta, where the average commute is the longest in the nation.

Jennifer Hughes, Agnes Scott Colllege associate professor of psychology, admits the results were a surprise:

"There is very little research on commuter stress," she says, "but what there is generally has concluded that commuting is a stressful routine. What we found was that commuters are less physiologically stressed after their commutes than before their commutes. This could mean that commutes are calming and could be helping commuters prepare for their workday."

So for commuters already stressed about The Mess that starts tomorrow, according this study you just may find relief once you actually get into it. (Or not).

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August 8, 2007 4:56 PM

Some northbound I-5 lanes to close tonight at 7 p.m until 5 a.m. tomorrow

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Some lanes of northbound Interstate 5 approaching downtown Seattle will close tonight, beginning at 7 p.m., so crews can restripe the lanes, the Washington State Department of Transportation just announced. All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. Thursday.

The new lane lines are meant to channel traffic as it emerges from a construction zone from Friday until Aug. 29, when crews will repave the freeway and replace damaged expansion joints.

In this temporary arrangement, the left lane will be only 10 feet wide, and the shoulder will be reduced.

Also, the right lane of northbound Airport Way South will become a transit-and-truck only lane starting Thursday morning and lasting throughout the construction, the DOT said.

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August 8, 2007 4:31 PM

Southwest Spokane St. swing bridge to be closed during mess

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The Seattle Department of Transportation will keep the Southwest Spokane Street swing bridge (the low bridge) over the Duwamish River closed for weekday morning peak period travel during the 19-day I-5 closure.

The city normally opens the bridge for marine traffic on the river. However, the city's DOT asked the Coast Guard to keep the bridge closed to maintain traffic flow on Spokane Street from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays, which the city said should help ease anticipated traffic congestion on area surface streets, and assist Port of Seattle container traffic.

The weekday morning peak hour marine traffic restriction will remain in place from August 13 through August 29. Swing Bridge operations during the afternoon peak period and on weekends are not affected. The Swing Bridge will open for marine traffic as usual on weekends and at times other than weekday mornings.

The Southwest Spokane Street Swing Bridge will return to normal
operations on August 30.

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August 8, 2007 4:01 PM

Streaming video to assist DOT in collision response time

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The Washington State Patrol will re-assign several airplanes to assist the State Department of Transportation during the 19-day lane closures beginning this weekend on Interstate 5. These aircrafts will be able to provide live streaming video of highways and detour routes to the DOT traffic management center and the emergency operations center.

By providing video in areas that don't have traffic cameras, the state patrol aircraft will expedite response time to clearing collisions or disabled vehicles.
During the morning and afternoon peak commute time, the state patrol airplanes will patrol routes that include First Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South, alternate routes west of Interstate 5 and east of Interstate 5, Highway 99, Highway 518, Highway 509, Interstate 405 and Interstate 90.

The state patrol will also be using its instant towing program to dispatch tow trucks immediately to blocking collisions and disabled vehicles, shortening response time.

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August 8, 2007 12:47 PM

An early taste: Disabled truck blocks two right lanes

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Drivers today are getting a preview of what it's like to lose a couple lanes in this area, which is often a choke point on a good day. As of 11:30 a.m., traffic has backed up four miles, after a disabled tanker truck blocked the two right lanes of northbound I-5 at Yesler Way, says the state Department of Transportation.

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August 8, 2007 11:51 AM

Medical helicopter to be added during closures

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Airlift Northwest announced today that it will add an extra air medical helicopter from August 13-29 during the closure of I-5 for repairs. The additional helicopter will be based at Boeing Field in Seattle and staged around the region, depending on need.

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August 8, 2007 6:12 AM

If I-5 had a theme song . . .

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

"Commutin' Time," a ditty that tells of lattes getting cold and gas gauges reading low while being stuck in traffic, just may take Seattle by storm come this Friday.

The musicians on this country-western tune include "Jimmy Sondy," a stage name (and last-name anagram) for Warren James Dyson, who operates Certified Mobile Tune in south Seattle. Dyson's the guy who waits across the street from the emissions-testing station, ready to tweak your engine if it flunks the first try.

The song was inspired by "just experiences of working around cars for 26 years, seeing people frustrated." One of his bandmates, James Nason, works in the testing station. Dyson said they released their three-song compact disc prematurely, to get it out in time for the big I-5 closure. They're working on a song about the emissions station.

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August 8, 2007 6:03 AM

Flextime: Telecommuting, alternate routes and "jammies"

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Many large employers are aiming to make sure their operations aren't disrupted by the traffic congestion sure to accompany the road repairs on northbound I-5. While some companies are launching temporary new efforts, others see the upcoming snarl as a chance to encourage workers to try pre-existing alternatives to the standard commute.

Here are some highlights:

Boeing is reminding employees about commuter options that already are available, including telecommuting.

Starbucks is offering discounted public-transit and train passes to employees who drive to work alone.

In the Seattle city government, 5,600 of approximately 10,000 employees live south of Interstate 90. Telecommuting is an option for some, primarily managers, who are linked to the city computer network.

The University of Washington is coping with the potential congestion by putting to use a unique asset -- its dormitories. The university has outfitted about 50 rooms with towels, bedding, a phone, a drinking cup and access to a shared restroom.

"Those are absolutely perfect, perfect, perfect strategies," Holter said. "We want people to get out of their personal vehicles and into the buses, [or] into their jammies and stay at home."

Tell The Clog what the options are at your company?

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August 7, 2007 5:15 PM

Metro to put 15 buses on standby for relief

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

King County Metro Transit told The Seattle Times this afternoon it will put 15 buses on standby, ready for use on south-end routes starting Monday, to try and keep the trips on schedule. They might also be used to relieve crowding. Metro personnel have been out looking at ridership patterns this week, and it seems some people are already trying out bus alternatives to driving, said Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke, "but we won't know what the actual impact is to travel times, until the lanes are closed."

Previously, Metro has said its fleet is "maxed out," but Thielke said today that managers have been planning for standby buses.

Monday at peak times, there were about 120 spare buses in working order, countywide. Those would be spread among seven bus bases, she said. On any given day, some of those are put on the street in case of a breakdown, or if somebody vomits and a bus must be cleaned, or in case of a crash -- as happened this morning on Highway 169 in Renton. A few are used to train new drivers. And if buses are available, finding drivers can be an additional challenge, Thielke said.

It would seem, then, that Metro can find buses in a crunch.

On the other hand, Metro estimates there are 3,000 empty seats currently on its 130 morning trips from the south suburbs to Seattle, "so we think we have plenty of capacity for people who need to ride the bus during the I-5 closure," Thielke said. Some routes and times will be more crowded than others.

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August 7, 2007 4:38 PM

State ferries to increase service for I-5 closures

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Washington State Ferries will increase service to respond to the 19-day Interstate-5 closures, which begins Friday. Beginning Sunday, the 188-car Walla Walla will be replaced by the 144-care Kaleetan on the Seattle-Bremerton route. While the Kaleetan carries fewer vehicles, it carries 500 more passengers than the Walla Walla.

The 6:20 a.m. sailing from Bremerton will have passenger space available to accommodate walk-on passengers hoping to avoid I-5.

On Monday, the ferries will add two passenger-only sailings to the Seattle-Vashon Island route. In addition to the scheduled 7 and 8:15 a.m. sailings from Vashon, there will be an additional 5:50 a.m. sailing to Seattle and a 6:25 sailing from Seattle to Vashon.

In the afternoons, in addition to the scheduled 4:45 and 6:10 p.m. sailings from Seattle to Vashon, the ferry system will add a 3:35 p.m. sailing. There will also be an added 4:10 p.m. sailing from Vashon to Seattle.

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August 7, 2007 2:59 PM

More mess: Rainier Ave. detours in Renton, Aug 11 - 15

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The BNSF Railway Company will be replacing railroad bridges in downtown Renton to allow for future transportation improvements August 11 - 15.

Detour route for the Rainier Ave. S. closure (City of Renton map):

Detours will be in place for the following roads on these dates.

From the City of Renton press release:

While local motorists, businesses and residents may be affected by noise and traffic delays during construction, especially on Rainer Avenue, the replacement of the railroad bridges will enable the city to provide significant street improvements in the future. The replacement of the railroad bridge over Rainier Avenue will result in the widening of Rainier Avenue to include three lanes in each direction, left hand turn access at multiple points, and Business Access Transit (BAT) lanes. The street opening at the Shattuck Avenue railroad bridge is currently wide enough for only one vehicle to pass at a time.

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August 7, 2007 1:05 PM

At least $7 more for airport cabs during I-5 mess

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Seattle's standard $28 flat rate for a cab driving south from downtown to the airport will be suspended through the Aug. 10-29 construction, the City of Seattle announced today. The trip will cost at least $7 more than usual, and city officials are warning it could be much more.

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August 7, 2007 6:35 AM

WSDOT gets "webby?"

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

So the Washington Department of Transportation has a blog, is asking readers to share their commuting stories during the I5 construction and even has a podcast!

One might wonder about the traffic (no pun intended) to these online features, but with 112 comments on the "Share your plans" post they must be getting some eyeballs. What this really means: lots of folks are trying to figure out how to deal with the coming mess.

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August 7, 2007 6:02 AM

No extra Metro buses, possible standing room

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Unlike other transit lines, King County Metro's bus system won't be boosting service during construction, even though 21 of its routes will be affected enough to require detours in South Seattle.

King County taxpayers did approve a "Transit Now" sales-tax increase last fall to buy more buses and Metro has ordered them, but they have not been delivered.

And according to spokeswoman Linda Thielke, South End lines have room for new riders, but many of them will have to stand.

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August 6, 2007 1:55 PM

The five stages of the I-5 mess

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The northbound traffic patterns on Interstate 5 are going to shift at least five times as the state blocks freeway lanes for construction later this month.

Washington DOT also outlines it here.

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August 6, 2007 11:44 AM

Your plans: Staying off the road

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Several readers have written in today saying they are taking vacations or making other plans to avoid commuting during the closure (interesting that this is partly what Washington DOT is suggesting everyone do during the construction).

I had a luncheon scheduled in Seattle for 8/15 but cancelled it in response to the closure. Avoiding all such during this period.
I'm taking a vacation to visit relatives on Vancouver Island.

What are your plans? Send them to The Clog.

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August 6, 2007 6:18 AM

"Choose your way into Seattle"

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Washington Department of Transportation says:

To keep traffic moving, WSDOT traffic engineers say at least half of the drivers on northbound I-5 - more than 65,000 vehicles - must find alternate ways to work, leave early, take transit or carpool, telework or take vacation.

On Friday they offered this release of possible options on their site: I-5 Downtown Seattle Construction Closures: Choose Your Way into Seattle

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August 6, 2007 6:02 AM

For starters: Surviving the I5 mess

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

Transportation reporter Mike Lindblom has created a "survival guide" that gives you all need from road detours to water taxis. This is a link you'll want to hang on to through the entire closure.

This related graphic, "Surviving the I-5 construction" is also a keeper.

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August 3, 2007 12:02 PM

Web resources for getting around during I-5 construction

Posted by Cory Tolbert Haik

The state Department of Transportation is calling this month's lane closures of northbound Interstate 5, from the night of Aug. 10 until Aug. 29, the biggest shutdown ever, for the highway backups that might result.

Here are some useful web resources:

Washington State Department of Transportation

WSDOT's traffic congestion map

Sound Transit

Elliott Bay Water Taxi: West Seattle to downtown

Metro trip planner

King County Metro Transit vanpool site

For carpooling and ride-matching or 1-888-814-1300

Customer service for Pierce Transit, including Sound Transit routes leaving Pierce County or 253-581-8000

Seattle Department of Transportation "Frequently Asked Questions"

Bicycle Alliance of Washington (for bike maps and cycling advice)

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Recent entries

Aug 20, 07 - 12:18 PM
Wet roads not slowing drivers; construction moves ahead

Aug 17, 07 - 08:17 AM
One rider: Sounder seemed less crowded today

Aug 17, 07 - 07:28 AM
I-5 clogging; alternate routes urged

Aug 16, 07 - 04:01 PM
Lanes reopended where brush fire caused -5 lane closures near SeaTac

Aug 16, 07 - 12:00 PM
Sound transit ridership continues to drop







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