'You just know it's going to be bad': Permanent viaduct closure on Jan. 11 to affect 90,000 commuters

SEATTLE -- It’s slated to be the longest major highway closure to hit the Puget Sound region.

Realigning 99 before the tunnel opens will send 90,000 drivers who commute on the Alaskan Way Viaduct to find another way around Seattle.

“I can’t even imagine what that's going to be like,” said Cindi Raykovich, owner of Sound Sports.

For three weeks starting January 11, the viaduct and the tunnel will close while crews finish work on the tunnel and eight on and off ramps for the project.

“I don’t really think about it anymore. It’s been so many bits and pieces and so many starts and not starts,” said Raykovich.

Another closure within feet from Sound Sports is business as usual for the Raykovichs.

“We’re truly a mom and pop. I’m the mom, my husband’s the pop,” she said. “I’m not really upset about it (the closure) being pushed out, because its happened so many times. It’s the Seattle way."

For 22 years, they found their footing on the corner of Madison and Post.

“We know feet. You got to know something in life, we know feet,” said Raykovich.

They also know what a tight squeeze feels like, on the streets outside their shop.

“You just know it’s going to be bad,” she said.

Project leaders say don’t wait until January to find a new route.

“Folks need to start thinking now of what their alternative route will be,” said Brian Nielsen with the tunnel project.

WSDOT says expect six weeks of region-wide congestion as crews complete the highway and eight new on and off ramps for the tunnel.

“I don’t know (that) a lot of our core customers are going to be affected. The people driving through Seattle or driving on Aurora (State Route 99) to get somewhere in West Seattle, they’ll be affected,” said Raykovich.

Transportation officials will increase West Seattle water taxi trips and urge people to use public transit.

“Those guys are doing the ferries, the rapid ride buses are helping quite a bit,” said Raykovich.

She says after two decades of running a business next to the viaduct, the pace may change but she’s staying put.

“I think we keep thinking we’ll see what we get through. So far, we’re doing OK. Knock some wood, I got some wood somewhere,” she said with a laugh.

WSDOT and its partner agencies say they wanted to keep people moving during the holiday season and wanted to avoid a major closure between Thanksgiving and the New Year. They say there are also fewer major Seattle events in early 2019 than there are during the last quarter of 2018.