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Friday, October 28, 2011

Communication saving Seattle from Viadoom

By Nicole Sherbert
ADOT Assistant Communication Director

We've been pretty quiet on the blog this week. (And, no, we haven't been sitting around reading our borrowed copy of "The benefits of high-volume fly ash" or re-watching our ridiculously awesome caisson video.

We're working on a few stories for next week and we do have a pretty big traffic alert to let you know about, which we'll get to in a minute, but first we want to take a minute to give some props to our counterparts up in Washington State.

If you haven't yet heard, last Friday night WSDOT closed the Alaskan Way viaduct -- one of the two main north-south freeways through downtown Seattle -- for demolition and ultimate replacement with a waterfront tunnel.

With a typical workday traffic level of more than 110,000 vehicles and because the closure would span a work week, the viaduct's closure -- deemed "Via Con Dios" -- had the potential to far exceed expectations of last summer's Los Angeles-based prequel, "Carmageddon."

WSDOT's job (in addition, of course, to completing the work)? Informing the roughly 3.5 million Seattle-area residents, plus the additional tens of thousands of potential drivers visiting the area, of the closure and trying to mitigate at least some of the inevitable gridlock.

Their communication efforts have been nothing short of genius...

They had a farewell ceremony complete with a Gubernatorial spin behind the wheel of a front-end loader, a public commemorative walk, and, (of course???) Rollergirls and motorcycle stunt riders! (Both teams were the winners of a WSDOT-sponsored contest seeking the most creative ideas for how someone would spend 30 minutes alone on the viaduct given the chance.)

Twitter has been afire with #Viacondios warnings, #Viadoom stories of commuting success and woe, and our personal favorite, #Viaku (Via Con Dios-inspired Haikus).

And WSDOT's website (and seemingly every media outlet in the country) has chronicled the demolition with updates, videos and photos to keep people informed during the demolition process.

They'll hit the one-week mark tonight, and while we're sure it has been a difficult process for everyone in Seattle, those of us who strive to keep drivers informed and the public engaged in transportation issues and solutions have been duly impressed!

As DOTs, we recognize that the work we do to keep drivers moving in the long run sometimes makes the short run fairly inconvenient. The best we can do is try to mitigate the inconvenience of closure timings and hopefully inform as many drivers as possible in advance so they can make alternate plans (or simply give themselves more time and manage expectations if there isn't a convenient alternative).

And don't worry, Arizonans, we have no blockbuster plans to complete the Carmageddon - Via Con Dios trilogy, but we do issue our fair share of traffic alerts.

So...how can we better communicate with our drivers? Have any creative suggestions? If so, leave them here or over on our Facebook page.

And speaking of (Via)doom...back to that traffic alert of our own.

Did you know that Halloween tends to be one of the heaviest commute days of the year?

Seems that when Halloween falls on a weekday everyone leaves work at about the same time either to get their own little ghouls and goblins dressed or to pick up that last-minute bag of candy.

Unfortunately, we don't have any great suggestions for avoiding the fright of Halloween traffic, but here are some basic tips:
  • If possible, get an early start home. Traffic tends to be worst been 4:00 and 6:00
  • Be patient...everyone else is trying to get home just like you.
  • And, most importantly, don't try to make up for lost time at the end of your commute...early trick-or-treaters may already be out and hastily crossing your local streets.
Happy early Halloween, everyone.

Posted by Angela DeWelles   |  Labels:  ADOT, Communication, Halloween, -Viacondios
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