- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan has appointed retired U.S. Air Force Major General Michael Worden as the city's first Director of Citywide Mobility Operations Coordination.
- Worden will serve as the point of contact for the city's 29 departments and ensure they develop coordinated responses to mobility challenges from the permanent closure of Alaskan Way Viaduct, slated for next Monday, and the Seattle Squeeze — a four-year period when public and private mega-projects, such as light-rail and a new convention center, will make getting into and around the city difficult.
- Worden will be based out of the city's Emergency Operations Center and will coordinate efforts including managing the right of way, conducting incident response, ensuring the continued delivery of emergency services and making sure the city is working closely with partners for operations and planning. "General Worden will help ensure we are meeting the challenge for the public, freight mobility and critical services like public safety," Durkan said in a statement.
Construction crews are rebuilding portions of SR 99 to move it into a replacement tunnel following the viaduct closure. The new tunnel is slated to open in early February and will run for two miles under downtown Seattle. The re-worked roadway will be free to use at first, but tolling is expected to begin later this year.
For an estimated three weeks — and possibly up to six weeks — while the transition from the viaduct to the new tunnel takes place, drivers will have to figure out different ways to get around. This traffic re-routing is a big deal for the Seattle area when taking into account that about 90,000 vehicles use the viaduct each day. A portion of those are expected to flood already crowded surface streets. Add to that other big projects taking place in the city and it equates to a congestion nightmare.
Different agencies have been running educational campaigns to ask for the public's patience as well as encouraging them to seek other ways to get to their destinations. Transit, carpooling or even working from home present ways to alleviate some of the upcoming traffic congestion. The mobility upheaval will be at such a large scale that many solutions are necessary and many departments need to be involved.
A perennial complaint from municipal employees is that departments often are siloed, don't communicate well with each other and don't adequately collaborate on large projects. Getting all the players on the same page is not an easy task without a coordinator. Appointing what some are calling Seattle's "mobility czar" should help the city and residents get through the upcoming transportation disruption more smoothly.