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Get ready for the Seattle Squeeze

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Plan ahead for the viaduct closing!


As we hope you have already heard, the Alaskan Way Viaduct permanently closes on Jan. 11 to make way for the new State Route 99 tunnel.

Before the tunnel opens, construction crews will need approximately three weeks to realign the highway into the new tunnel.

During the closure, up to 90,000 vehicles a day that use the viaduct could shift to surface streets through and around downtown Seattle.

This will cause major traffic congestion and travel delays until the tunnel opens.

If everyone driving on the viaduct today tries to drive through downtown, traffic will grind to a halt.

Take the train

For commuters coming to Seattle from the north and south, Sound Transit’s Sounder and Link light rail trains don’t spend any time stuck in car traffic - this will be a great opportunity to try commuting by train.

Sounder serves 11 cities during weekday peak hours on two lines, from Everett to Seattle and from Lakewood/Tacoma to Seattle.

Link Light rail runs traffic-free through Seattle, Tukwila and SeaTac, serving 16 stations from the University of Washington to Angle Lake.

We will have an extra Link train ready to help with crowding during the shutdown and all available cars will be in service.

Most Link trains have three cars and run every 10 minutes, and during peak hours we add several two-car trains to ensure that trains run every 6 minutes. 

We do not currently have enough light rail cars to run all three-car trains during rush hours.

Link trains are already very full during rush hours and we should expect even busier trains during this work.

If possible, try to flex your work hours to take the train outside of the busiest rush hours.

In the morning, Link carries the most riders from about 6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

In the afternoon, Link is busiest from about 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Parking at the Tukwila and Angle Lake Link stations fills up early – often before 6 a.m.

Catch a ride to the station

Sound Transit is partnering with King County Metro, the City of Seattle and three of the area’s ridehailing/ridesharing companies—Uber, Lyft, and ReachNow—to encourage transit use during the Viaduct closure.

Read more about the program offering $2.75 discounts on ridehailing trips to and from select light rail stations and transit centers outside of downtown.

Sounder train options

Sounder trains will also be busy, but we have room for more riders.

Sounder runs on tracks owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and we are not able to add trips during this work.

Below is a snapshot of our average weekday ridership on Sounder to give you an idea of which trips will have the most room.

The light blue bars show maximum seated capacity, dark blue shows seated riders. These were the average weekday boardings during the first half of 2018. 


Chart showing the average passenger loads on Sounder trains heading to Seattle in the morning from Tacoma/Lakewood


Chart showing the average passenger loads on Sounder trains heading South from Seattle to Tacoma/Lakewood


Chart showing the average passenger loads on Sounder trains heading south from Everett in the morning


Chart showing the average passenger loads on Sounder trains heading north to Everett in the afternoon.

Sounder North riders - keep the Amtrak Rail Plus trains in mind for as an option to take a later train to work in the morning 

Note: all of our Sounder parking lots fill early.

Amtrak Cascades Rail Plus train options for Edmonds, Everett riders 

Did you know that most employer-provided ORCA cards or those loaded with a monthly pass can be used to ride four different Amtrak Cascades trips between Seattle and Amtrak stations in Emonds and Everett? This could be a great option if you can go in to work later and catch the 7 p.m. train home. Here's the schedule: 


Train Service Provider Everett Station Mukilteo Station Edmonds Station Seattle
517 Amtrak 9:53 a.m. : 10:16 a.m. 11:00 a.m.
519 Amtrak 9:07 p.m. : 9:30 p.m. 10:10 p.m.


Train Service Provider Seattle Edmonds Station Mukilteo Station Everett Station
516 Amtrak 7:45 a.m. 8:11 a.m. : 8:36 a.m.
518 Amtrak 7:00 p.m. 7:27 p.m. : 7:52 p.m.

Remember, Amtrak Cascades does not accept Sounder day passes or single-trip tickets. To ride Rail Plus trains, you must have an ORCA card loaded with a monthly pass, an ORCA Passport card or pay regular Amtrak Cascades fares. Rail Plus tickets are only available on weekdays.

Paying your Amtrak Cascades Rail Plus fares with an ORCA monthy pass or ORCA Passport Card

Confirm your pass is equal to one-way fare for travel (i.e., your ORCA pass covers $4 fare from King Street Station to Edmonds or $5 fare to Everett). Short version - if your employer provides your ORCA card, it will work for Amtrak Rail Plus.

Before getting on the train, you must get a Rail Plus validation ticket from a Sound Transit ticket vending machine. Rail Plus tickets are only available on weekdays.

Please follow these steps at the ticket vending machine: 

  1. Select your destination: select the group of stations that includes your destination, then select the specific station.
  2. Select the Amtrak Rail Plus button that appears in the bottom right hand corner.
  3. Insert your ORCA pass or Passport card in the card reader.
  4. Pick up the Amtrak Rail Plus ticket with a date, destination and ORCA card number from the tray below.
  5. To ride Amtrak Rail Plus, show the conductors both the ORCA card and the validation ticket during fare inspection.

The station ticket machines will not print a Rail Plus validation ticket if you do not have the correct ORCA pass.

Use our online trip planner to find the best route to your Sounder station.

Working together, we’ll all get through it

There’s no way around it – commuting to Seattle is going to be rough in January. Here are a few basic tips to help commuters navigate the closure period:

  • Work with your boss and ask for flexibility to avoid traveling during peak hours.
  • If you commute by bus, pack your patience and plan more time for your commute. 
  • Be a good rider – take off your backpack, move to the ends of the trains and please don't put your bags on the seats (place luggage under seats).

Resources to plan your commute

Seattle Department of Transportation clearinghouse for information about commuting into the center city

King County Metro information and tips, including the West Seattle Water Taxi, Vanpool, Vanshare and Carpool options

Commute Seattle resources for employers seeking help planning transportation options 

Washington State Department of Transportation information about the viaduct work and traffic volumes


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