Olive Way improvements open; more projects coming to Downtown Seattle
SEATTLE - Today marks the opening of a new configuration for Olive Way in Downtown Seattle that will speed up the flow of buses between Interstate 5 and the downtown core. Buses began using a new dedicated transit-only lane.
The Seattle Department of Transportation's Olive Way project is the first major downtown street improvement to come online as part of a $16 million mitigation package being carried out in connection with the closure of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) that takes place Sept. 24.
The DSTT will be closed for up to two years while it is retrofitted and upgraded for joint use by light rail trains and buses. The DSTT will re-open for buses no later than September 2007; light rail trains will join buses in the DSTT when the rail line opens in 2009. Sound Transit's Central Link light rail trains will more than double the number of people who use the DSTT, reliably moving passengers between downtown and Sea-Tac International Airport. Trains will run every six minutes during peak commute hours and in the years ahead could run as frequently as every 2-1/2 minutes. Light rail construction is moving forward rapidly, with crews currently working on all five sections of the initial segment route.
In preparation for the DSTT retrofit, the Seattle Department of Transportation, Sound Transit, King County Metro Transit and Community Transit are working together on an array of projects to keep Downtown Seattle moving during the tunnel closure and beyond. During the afternoon peak commute up to 140 buses per hour will be shifted to surface streets. The projects that are underway — including street improvements such as new transit lanes and dedicating Third Avenue to buses during peak commute hours — are designed to handle increased bus traffic.
The Olive Way project that opened today added an afternoon peak period transit-only lane between Fifth Avenue and Terry Street to help buses get to the freeway and ease congestion for all traffic. The reconfiguration preserved Olive Way's three eastbound general traffic lanes. The work included: widening the street between Sixth and Seventh avenues; modifying traffic islands at intersections; adding crosswalks; and changing the peak-hour parking restrictions from 3-6 p.m. to 3-7 p.m. Also, a transit contraflow lane was added on Ninth Avenue from Olive Way to Stewart Street to provide downtown access for buses coming from the freeway during the morning commute.
The other street improvements that the agencies are bringing to Downtown Seattle include:
· Preparing for the dedication of Third Avenue as a peak-hour bus corridor starting in September. Through traffic on Third Avenue between Yesler and Stewart streets will be limited to buses and emergency vehicles during peak commute hours. Other vehicles will still have limited circulation and business access. Third Avenue will handle most of the additional downtown bus traffic created by the temporary DSTT closure;
· Reconfiguring Prefontaine Place to facilitate movement of northbound bus traffic onto Third Avenue. Improvements include sidewalk and lighting upgrades and new street trees;
· Upgrading Fourth Avenue South between South Jackson Street and South Washington Street for a new transit-loading platform just north of Jackson; and
· Adding a northbound transit lane on Fifth Avenue South between South Jackson Street and South Washington Street to move buses quickly from the freeway exit to downtown.
By the end of the summer, Metro will have 145 new or refurbished bus shelters in Seattle's central business district to serve the increase of transit passengers on the surface streets.
Transit planners are also working on new routing for both the DSTT buses and the other routes serving downtown. Some of that information is now available at http://transit.metrokc.gov, or by calling Metro Rider Information at (206) 553-3000.
Community Transit runs 125 buses from Snohomish County into and out of Downtown Seattle each weekday - about 4,000 commuters. As a partner in the DSTT closure mitigation efforts, Community Transit is helping to create expanded and improved bus zones, and better signage for riders. Also, the agency will be closely monitoring the flow of traffic to adjust bus times as needed. Further information about Community Transit's Seattle service can be found at www.communitytransit.org or by calling (425) 353-RIDE or (800) 562-1375.
For more information about the temporary closure of the DSTT and all the mitigation projects, visit www.seattletunnel.org.
The 15.7-mile Central Link initial segment and Airport Link extension are scheduled to begin operations in 2009 and by 2020 will provide fast and reliable trips to approximately 45,000 passengers daily. See addtional information on Central Link.
Partner Agency Contacts:
City of Seattle: Dawn Schellenberg, (206) 684-5189
King County Metro Transit: Linda Thielke, (206) 684-1414
Community Transit: Martin Munguia, (425) 348-2348
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.