Alaskan Way Viaduct to open Monday, ahead of schedule

Originally published May 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm Updated May 8, 2016 at 5:39 pm

An empty Alaskan Way viaduct during the closure last week. (Ellen M. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen Monday morning, about four days ahead of schedule as Bertha digs the tunnel that will replace the elevated roadway

Good news for Seattle commuters: The Alaskan Way Viaduct will reopen in time for Monday’s morning commute, according to transportation officials.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said Sunday that tunneling-machine Bertha has made good progress and, as a result, the viaduct will open four days before it was scheduled.
Officials had estimated the viaduct would be closed for two weeks as Bertha dug the tunnel that will eventually replace the earthquake-damaged elevated roadway. The job was done in 10 days.

“Removing traffic from the viaduct was critical to the success of this work, but we don’t want the closure to last a moment longer than it needs to,” said WSDOT Acting Secretary Roger Millar.

Crews began removing barriers to viaduct entrances Sunday evening. The roadway was closed April 29, and traffic that typically used the highway squeezed onto surface streets and Interstate 5, causing major delays that frustrated many commuters. The heavier-than-usual traffic also led to an increase in car crashes.

Structural engineers determined Sunday that the ground beneath the viaduct and the tunnel was stable enough for vehicles to drive over.

WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), the contractor handling the tunnel project, determined Bertha’s tunneling did not have an adverse effect on the viaduct’s structure, said Todd Trepanier, administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Now, some 90,000 drivers and 30,000 transit riders who use the viaduct each weekday can resume their normal commutes.

King County Metro plans to return buses to regular routes starting early Monday for 12 lines that had been rerouted during the closure.

The county’s water-taxi service will continue offering five additional round-trips between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle on Monday but will revert to its normal schedule Tuesday. Expanded parking at the West Seattle water-taxi stop will also be offered for one final day Monday.

Both the water taxi and Rapid Ride lines C, D and E reported higher than usual ridership during the closure, said Jeff Switzer, a King County spokesman.

“Closing a major highway is never easy, and the public deserves a big thank you for their patience and flexibility while this crucial work took place,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.

“I would like to thank the WSDOT and STP project teams and construction crews on a job well done,” he said. “To finish this piece of the project almost a week early is commendable. “

The shutdown was part of a yearslong project to redirect Highway 99 into an underground route. The tunnel is now expected to open in spring of 2018, more than two years behind the original estimate because of breakdowns and extensive repairs to Bertha.

During the closure, Bertha churned through about 312 feet of the total 385 feet it needs to clear under the viaduct. The work is expected to be completed later this week.

“Much work remains, but we are encouraged by the contractor’s performance during this phase of the project,” Millar said referring to Seattle Tunnel Partners.

Blanca Torres: 206-464-2550 or

This is how much money you need to make to live ‘comfortably’ in Seattle

BY  on April 19, 2016 at 2:05 pm


Your ability to “comfortably” afford housing, transportation, health care, groceries, utilities, transportation and more cost-of-living expenses now has a yearly dollar figure attached to it if you want to live in Seattle. A study by GOBankingRates.computs the number at $72,092.

The financial services website looked at figures for the 50 biggest cities in the United States to help individuals gauge whether their personal spending habits could cause financial troubles depending on the cost of living for whatever city they were in.


Inline image 1
(Via GOBankingRates)The study relied on the 50-30-20 budgeting rule, according to GoBankingRates, in which 50 percent of income covers necessities, 30 percent is for discretionary items and 20 percent is saved. The study also compared the total amount of income needed to the actual median household income in each city to see if differences in cost of living are matched by differences in pay.

GOBankingRates says that the median household income in Seattle is $67,365, which comes up $4,727 short of the income needed to cover necessities, savings and additional expenses.

The website flatly declares that if your income isn’t enough to meet expenses you either need to cut costs or consider moving to another city. Conveniently, the Seattle slide is just one of 50, so you can browse across the U.S.

Over at Seattle Refined, they spell out five cities where people live the most comfortably (Virginia Beach, Va.: $16,072 surplus income) and five cities where residents are the least financially comfortable (Miami: $46,199 deficit income).

With an influx of well-paid tech workers, the gap between who is comfortable in Seattle and who is not is sure to increase as the cost of living rises. GOBankingRates’ study shows only 15 of the 50 most-populous U.S. cities have residents who are living with a surplus between actual income and income needed to live comfortably.

More moving to Seattle

Tech firms in pricey San Francisco see exodus to Seattle

The Golden Gate Bridge frames the San Francisco skyline. (ERIC RISBERG/AP)

April 6, 2016 at 10:41 am

Is the ‘Amazon effect’ on rising rents in North Seattle real?

Rents in Seattle north of the Ship Canal have breached a costly threshold for a couple of reasons, including the Amazon boom.

Cranes tower above Seattle’s University District neighborhood as a building boom continues there. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

The days when you could save a few bucks by renting north of the Ship Canal are rapidly drawing to a close, according to a new report from Seattle-based Zillow.

Is it another example of the “Amazon effect” that’s driving up rents in some city neighborhoods?

In the stretch from Ballard to the University District, rents shot up sharply between 2014 and 2015, according to data from Zillow, a national real-estate company. Nearly every census tract in this area saw its median price per square foot spike by double digits in that one-year period.

To be sure, there were similar increases in the far north and south ends of the city, such as Lake City and Rainier Valley. These, however, are some of the least expensive sections of Seattle. So as folks get priced out of the more central neighborhoods, demand here is growing. Even with the jump in rents, these areas are still significantly cheaper.

But the neighborhoods along the north side of the canal weren’t exactly a bargain to begin with — so what’s driving up the rents here so quickly?

Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow, says it may be due to the popularity of this area among Amazon workers. Terrazas analyzed employment data from the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze the blocks with Amazon’s South Lake Union offices and see where people working there actually reside.

In central Ballard, it turns out. More than 2 percent of residents work in the Amazon tech corridor. That’s comparable to more close-in neighborhoods known for their high density of Amazon employees, such the Pike/Pine area of Capitol Hill, Belltown and Lower Queen Anne. (As you’d expect, South Lake Union itself has an ever higher percentage of Amazon workers — nearly 4 percent.)

“You see a lot of South Lake Union workers live in that strip just north of the canal,” Terrazas told me.

“It’s relatively convenient to get to the downtown urban core. All of the amenities you’d expect in a dense urban environment are also there. There are a lot of apartments. There’s good bus service and lots of restaurants and bars.”

Even so, Terrazas cautions against blaming rising rents here solely onan influx of Amazon workers. Another driver of rents north of the Ship Canal is the increase in density from new apartment buildings.

“Denser areas [in Seattle] tend to be more expensive,” he said, “partly because they tend to be desirable and accessible communities.”

And in fact, according to the data, the neighborhood that experienced the steepest rise in rents in the city has a relatively low concentration of Amazon workers: the University District.

So what’s behind the astounding jump in median rent per square foot — 24 percent in a single year?

Again, it’s most likely due to the slew of new apartment complexes recently opened in the neighborhood west of The Ave. The arrival of the light rail at Husky Stadium also makes the area more desirable for Downtown Seattle workers. Terrazas said he’s also heard reports of more University of Washington students seeking off-campus housing as dorm fees increase.

Nowhere had median rents outside central Seattle surpassed $2 per square foot — until now, according to the Zillow data. For the first time, that threshold was crossed in three census tracts north of the Ship Canal:

Wallingford, Ballard and — likely to the dismay of UW denizens — the University District.

What you need to know about buying and selling!

The buying and selling process can be quite daunting. I have compiled a simple list to help you navigate the process!  Give me a call if you have questions 206-954-1099.


Buying-Selling home checklist

Two-week SR 99 closure coming in 2016

Ugggg… This is not what Seattle commuters need….

WSDOT will close the Alaskan Way Viaduct for approximately two weeks to allow Bertha, the SR 99 tunneling machine, to tunnel beneath the structure. The contractor’s latest projections show that this closure will occur in March 2016, but the actual date will depend on the rate of Bertha’s progress.

WSDOT recognizes that closing a major highway will have regional traffic impacts. This is a necessary and planned step toward completing a project that will transform the city and region.

What should I do to get around during the closure?
Consider your travel options for getting to work. Consider working from home, using flex time to skip rush hour, taking public transit / vanpools / carpools,biking or walking part or all of your commute, or using the I-5 Express Lanes to save time. Ask your Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC) if you have questions about your commute options.

Why will the viaduct be closed for two weeks?
This temporary closure of the viaduct is precautionary. Removing vehicles from the structure will allow crews to better monitor the viaduct while Bertha mines underneath, and quickly address any movement that might occur. Additionally, WSDOT recognizes that advertising a planned closure ahead of time, instead of conducting an unexpected and last-minute closure, will give the traveling public time to plan their trips accordingly.

When will the closure take place?
Seattle Tunnel Partners’ latest projections show this closure will occur in March 2016, but the actual closure date will depend on the rate of Bertha’s progress.

What efforts are being made to keep traffic moving?
WSDOT is coordinating closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro, the Port of Seattle, Washington State Ferries, King County Water Taxi and Sound Transit. More information about steps WSDOT is taking – and things travelers can do to help – will be published in the coming weeks.

Check this page for more information in 2016 as Seattle Tunnel Partners provides WSDOT with new information concerning the progress of tunneling.

Is it Better to Rent or Buy?

Most people know whether they’re better of renting or buying, but if you’re not sure, there are some guidelines and tools to help you decide.  As an agent I can help you sort this out.  You may think I’ll just tell you to buy because I’m a Realtor, but that’s not the way I work.  I don’t believe a lot of the hype from my industry and I want to help you make a smart decision.

Reasons to Buy

  1. You want freedom to be creative, fix up your house, tear down walls, and make the house “yours”.
  2. You’ll be staying in your home for five years or more and want stability.
  3. You don’t want to have to deal with a landlord.
  4. You don’t want to have to worry about your landlord deciding to sell your house and have to move.
  5. You have extra cash to put into a stable investment.
  6. Tax deductions on your tax return.
  7. Right now, buying can have lower monthly payments than renting in Seattle.

Reasons to Rent

  1. You plan move within the next five years.
  2. You want flexibility if a better job comes up in a different region.
  3. You are still building your career and not sure if you’ll be at Amazon or Microsoft and don’t want to be stuck driving across 520.
  4. You don’t have a down payment, your credit is poor, or you have too much debt. Pssstt… If you have poor credit, I know someone who can help!
  5. Let someone else deal with that leaking roof.
  6. You can’t afford to buy a house in the neighborhood in the neighborhood you want (but renting might not be any easier).

Rent Versus Buy Calculator

The New York Times has an excellent financial calculator to help you figure out if it’s better for you to rent or buy.  It factors in all kinds of things like interest rates, how long you want to live there, and your tax rates.  This is the best rent vs buy calculator I’ve seen.

Call or email me and I can help you fill in the things you’re not sure about such as interest rates and closing costs for selling a house.  I’ve added this to my “Calculators” menu, above.

NY Times Rent vs Buy Calculator