Viaduct closure: The countdown is on to the 'Seattle Squeeze'

SEATTLE-- Some soaking late November rains and the upper deck of the cracked and slowly crumbling and sinking Alaskan Way Viaduct is visibly jammed with bumper to bumper cars.

Hard to believe in roughly 40 days we'll be looking back on days like this as "the good old days."

But, the closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is coming soon.

On Jan. 11, 90,000 commuters will be forced into different routes or modes of transit. For the first three weeks it will be the most trying for the Emerald City, since the new Highway 99 tunnel will not be ready for drivers.

Officials have  been branding the three weeks between the SR 99 realignment as 'The Seattle Squeeze'.  It's the biggest and longest highway closure in the history of the Emerald City.

But the forecasted epic congestion could possibly be avoided if we all decide to do something different.

"I'm going to have to get out of my car," says Diana Hice.

She's with the human resource department of Holland America Cruise Lines. She's one of the 90,000 who currently use the Alaskan Way Viaduct to get from her home in southern King County to their offices on Lower Queen Anne.

"I don't see continuing to drive as a viable option for me," says Hice. "It is scary, it is troublesome. But I'm really excited to say that my company is stepping up."

Holland America is one of about 30 companies, so far, taking some free advice from Commute Seattle. They're a cooperative public-private cooperative to help employers and their workers make smart changes in how they get between home and work.

"It's that panic and that nervousness that we're able to to capitalize on," says Madeline Feig with Commute Seattle. "Oh well, you're scared of this, well, it's time to take it into your own hands to make some change."

There's four pillars to make the three weeks between the viaduct closing and the new 99 tunnel opening less painful for everyone.

Telecommuting tops the list, since it actually takes cars off the road.

Flexible hours or 4 day work-weeks takes cars off the road during peak times. Moving on human power like biking  or walking works for those who can do and live close enough to their work. And riding together helps as well. Whether it's using mass transit, Metro vanpools or carpooling.

"We know that it's kinda scary to try something new, no matter what it is," says Feig with Commute Seattle. "We honestly believe that you will benefit from trying something other than sitting alone in your car- no matter what that is."

For Diana and her two-thousand Holland America colleagues based in Seattle-- their company is doing a little of all of the above. For Diana specifically, she's going to do some test runs on mass transit in mid-December.

"It's not too early to be thinking about it," she says, "you can't have a conversation the week of, or the week prior."  She says being pro-active is the key to keeping workers happy, stress-levels down and productivity up.

"I think it's really important to do it now," says Hice.

But, there's no need to panic or worry. There's plenty of time to get informed. Here are links to Commute Seattle, the City of Seattle's new traffic website,  here's the schedule of what closes when from WSDOT, and a really helpful PDF from WSDOT on alternatives for commuters.