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The State Route 99 tunnel gets its stripes—and giant running stick figures

The tunnel could open this fall

Courtesy of WSDOT

The State Route 99 tunnel, which is set to replace the decrepit Alaskan Way Viaduct, is structurally largely complete—meaning that crews are working on equipment testing and finishing touches before the tunnel opens to traffic later this year. One pretty crucial detail got finished over the weekend: the tunnel’s lane stripes and emergency exit indicators.

The paint job delineates two 11-foot traffic lanes on each of the tunnel’s two decks—the southbound upper deck and the northbound lower deck—plus an eight-foot shoulder on the left side and a two-foot buffer on the right. While paint stripes are ubiquitous enough to not really stand out too much, another painted detail is a little more attention-grabbing: seven-foot-tall running people painted every 50 feet to indicate the closest emergency exits. Egress corridors run down the sides of the tunnel, built into the curves left by the drill.

Giant green arrows indicate the distance to emergency exits on either side, which are also indicated by flashing lights and electronic signs.

The tunnel, which could open this fall, was initially projected to open in December 2015. After a two-year delay halted the drill from completing work until April 2017, the projected opening date was moved to early 2019, putting a fall opening date slightly ahead of that revised schedule.

The stretch of 99 served by the Viaduct will have to close for three weeks to redirect traffic into the new tunnel. While the Washington State Department of Transportation doesn’t have a date for that yet, the agency says it will provide at least a month of notice.

After the tunnel opens to traffic, the Alaskan Way Viaduct will come down. Some minor demolition could start before the end of the year.

Eventually, the two-mile, tolled tunnel will carry cars from around the stadium district to Aurora Avenue North near Seattle Center. The current estimated cost of the project is $3.2 billion.

This article has been updated to remove a quote accidentally copied over from previous coverage.