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Major construction, detours on 85th Street begin Wednesday as SDOT repaves, rebuilds roadway

Beginning this week, driving through Ballard and Greenwood is going to get a whole lot trickier.
The Seattle Department of Transportation’s major repaving project of North/NW 85th Street, from 15th Avenue NW in Ballard all the way to I-5, is scheduled to start on Wednesday morning. The two-mile long project will be done in five phases, moving from west to east.
Phase 1 is from 15th Avenue NW to 8th Avenue NW. Beginning Wednesday, the eastbound lanes of that seven-block stretch will be closed, and traffic will be detoured to 80th Street.

Construction will begin on the eastbound lanes 0f NW 85th St. on the east side of the intersection with 15th Avenue NW.
SDOT Project Manager Jessica Murphy said the plan is to set up the detour route in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, so that it’s all ready to go before the morning commute. after the morning commute on Wednesday (this is updated information as of 1-3-12).
However, “The detour is not able to accommodate all the displaced traffic. We don’t expect the detour to perform very well even when optimized,” Murphy explained. “We estimate that to keep the detour route functioning at a moderately decent pace, actually about 50 percent of the cars need to choose something else other than the detour.”

Eastbound traffic will be detoured from NW 85th Street to NW 80th Street.
And that becomes even more pressing during Phases 2 and 3, so Murphy said this is a good time to learn what your other options are, from your own detour route to carpooling, taking transit or walking.
“But that doesn’t include you cutting through our neighborhood streets,” she said, adding that drivers should stick to arterial streets, but if they must cut through, drive slowly. “We ask people to drive through their neighborhood streets as if it was their street and their children.”

Barriers recently installed on 15th Avenue NW at NW 83rd Street will keep cars from turning from southbound 15th to eastbound 83rd.
Murphy expects a transition period of about a week for traffic to level out to the “new normal.” Then SDOT will make traffic signal timing adjustments based on what that new normal is. SDOT crews will be observing traffic patterns and intersections all day on that first day, and uniformed police officers will be stationed at all of the affected intersections for the first few days.
“The detour will only function worse and worse from here, so we really need people to plan ahead,” she said. “With the beginning of any new traffic control change there’s an adjustment period. So, traffic is expected to get very bad at first.”
SDOT has done extensive outreach on the project, from mass mailings to emails, variable message signs on the roadway, and door-to-door hand delivery of 800 flyers to a one-block radius of the Phase 1 work.
Pedestrian access to homes and businesses on 85th will be maintained at all times, but driveways may be closed up to three times during the project, up to 48 hours at a time. On-street parking will be eliminated from 15th to 8th during the first phase, so expect more cars parking on side streets.

No parking signs on NW 85th Street.
Typical work hours will be 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but evening and weekend work will occur periodically. No jack hammering is allowed between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Phase 2 will be from 8th Avenue NW to Greenwood Avenue North. SDOT will do some spot work in Phase 2 at the same time as Phase 1. It won’t require detours, but there will be intermittent lane closures in both directions. Both phases are scheduled to be done sometime in May.
Transit also will be detoured. Metro will have temporary stops for eastbound buses on 80th. Westbound buses will stay on 85th. Be sure and check Metro rider alerts.
There are two fewer empty storefronts in the neighborhood thanks to the project. SDOT has taken over the old Playmatters space at 7720 Greenwood Ave. N. for the duration of the project, and the contractor’s office is right next door in the old Lemon Meringue boutique space.

The project contractor’s office is on the bottom left, and SDOT’s office is on the bottom right.
Murphy said if people have concerns or issues, they can stop into the SDOT office if someone is there. (But please don’t go to the contractor’s office.) But the best way to contact someone with questions or problems is to call the 24-hour hotline: 206-496-9993. A live person will answer that phone any hour of the day or night.
Murphy said she knows it will be a real hassle for people to deal with the construction until October, but it will be fantastic when it’s finished. The new concrete roadways will last 40-60 years.
“There will not need to be a project of this magnitude on this corridor pretty much for as long as we all here will live,” Murphy said.
A note to bicyclists: SDOT has decided not to put bike sharrows on 85th between 8th and 15th as originally planned.
The $12 million project is funded by the taxpayer-approved 2006 Bridging the Gap Levy. SDOT estimates that 30,000 vehicles use North/NW 85th Street every day.
Phase 3 will work on 85th Street from Greenwood Avenue North to Aurora Avenue North. Phase 4 is from Aurora Avenue North to Wallingford Avenue North. And Phase 5 is from Wallingford Avenue North to the I-5 entrance.
Greenwood Avenue North is also getting a paving makeover as part of the project. That work will be mostly concurrent with Phase 2 work on 85th Street, but Murphy promises that it will be done before the Greenwood Car Show at the end of June. More information on that phase will come closer to the start date.
For more information on the project:
• Call the 24-hour project line: 206-496-9993
• Email: [email protected]
• Check out the project website: www.seattle.gov/transportation/pave_85th.htm