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Two weeks away: Buses shift to smoother, more reliable trip when Columbia Street reopens on 2/22

Summary

For 26,000 daily bus riders on 12 routes, the Seattle Squeeze is about to get a little easier with the reopening of Columbia Street from Alaskan Way to Third Avenue on Feb. 22. King County Metro shifts bus service to a long-planned, smoother and more reliable transit pathway with bus lanes and key traffic changes designed and supported by the City of Seattle. The new corridor will have connections between Metro buses, Water Taxi, and Washington State Ferries.

Story

With the Alaskan Way Viaduct out of the way, we’re putting the finishing touches on Columbia Street, transforming the street to connect buses between Alaskan Way and Third Avenue – one of the nation’s busiest busways.

 

Opening Feb. 22, the new bus connection will be smoother and more reliable, bypassing previous freight train delays in SODO. (See MAP). New bus stops also will be within a block of Washington State Ferries at Colman Dock and the Metro Water Taxi at Pier 50, and buses will now carry riders from the waterfront to the regional public transit network and Link light rail stations in the heart of Downtown Seattle.


“The Seattle Squeeze has tested the patience and endurance of commuters, and this month we reach an important turning point – putting buses on a better pathway to and from downtown Seattle,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “A new hub of connections between ferries, water taxis, buses, and light rail within a few blocks make transferring easy, and will help keep people moving. Our partners at the city and waterfront have prioritized transit, helping make progress toward defeating the climate crisis and bringing more people closer to fast and reliable Metro service.”

For years, bus riders from Burien, White Center and West Seattle traveled swiftly to and from downtown Seattle. However, the pathway relied on the seismically vulnerable and obsolete SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct.

 

Since the viaduct closed, 12 bus routes have traveled on surface streets while crews demolished the viaduct and rebuilt Columbia Street for two-way bus operations. These routes – 21 Express, 37, 55, 56, 57, 113, 120, 121, 122, 123, 125, and the RapidRide C Line faced delays that peaked in summer 2019, prompting Metro and Seattle to temporarily shift southbound buses to Fourth Avenue South to avoid major afternoon traffic delays. The two most popular routes on this list – RapidRide C Line and route 120 – carry a combined total of about 20,000 daily riders.

 

“During the Seattle Squeeze, residents from all over Seattle have chosen transit to help alleviate congestion. One of the most impacted neighborhoods is West Seattle, so this opening allows the start of faster and more reliable transit commutes,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Shifting buses Alaskan Way and Columbia Street is an exciting first step toward the new waterfront optimized for transit.”

 

The project was funded in part by King County Metro, with $3.5 million in improvements on Columbia Street between First and Third avenues. Columbia Street between Alaskan Way and First Avenue was rebuilt as part of the City’s Waterfront Seattle Program and included new water and sewer lines, electrical infrastructure, drainage system, and a new street and sidewalks.

 

If weather permits, we will begin work to create a new bus lane on Columbia Street between First and Third avenues on Monday, Feb. 10. We will need to temporarily close some westbound lanes to complete this work, and once we are done the new bus lane will remain closed to all traffic until bus routes change on Feb. 22.

 

The Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects is continuing to construct a new Alaskan Way from South King Street to Bell Street. The next milestone is opening dedicated, transit-only lanes on Alaskan Way between South King Street and Columbia Street by late 2021. Alaskan Way remains open during construction, with two lanes in each direction during the day. Closures, if necessary, will occur at night and on weekends and avoid major events. When completed in 2024, the new waterfront will reconnect the city to Elliott Bay for all modes of travel.

                                                                                                                   

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“The Seattle Squeeze has tested the patience and endurance of commuters, and this month we reach an important turning point – putting buses on a better pathway to and from downtown Seattle,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “A new hub of connections between ferries, water taxis, buses, and light rail within a few blocks make transferring easy, and will help keep people moving. Our partners at the city and waterfront have prioritized transit, helping make progress toward defeating the climate crisis and bringing more people closer to fast and reliable Metro service.”

- Dow Constantine, King County Executive

“During the Seattle Squeeze, residents from all over Seattle have chosen transit to help alleviate congestion. One of the most impacted neighborhoods is West Seattle, so this opening allows the start of faster and more reliable transit commutes,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “Shifting buses Alaskan Way and Columbia Street is an exciting first step toward the new waterfront optimized for transit.”

- Jenny Durkan, Seattle Mayor