Seattle bus tunnel set to reopen

Seattle bus tunnel set to reopen »Play Video
SEATTLE -- It took two years and $94 million, but the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is finally rapid transit ready.

And this time, transit planners say they've got it right.

In September, 1990, Seattle celebrated the first opening of the new bus tunnel. Back then they said the tracks laid in the ground were ready for rapid transit.

A lot has happened in 17 years. The rail cars didn't fit the old track, and the old system didn't meet modern safety standards.

So the tunnel was shut down for another renovation and on Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proclaimed, "This is a great day for Seattle and the region and for transportation."

After all, now the trains fit in the track.

The new tunnel was built for light rail. It will reopen Monday, but trains aren't expected to start running until 2009.

But the tracks are in place, and for the $94 million spent on the project Sound Transit also got a stub tunnel where trains can turn around.

The tunnel will eventually go through Capitol Hill and out to the University District.

Most people seemed happy at the dedication ceremony. But the road has been lowered eight inches so you can more easily step aboard a bus, and that has drivers worried that their rear-view mirrors are closer to passengers' heads.

"It's something you really have to watch for," said Metro bus driver Pat Calman. "Passengers do. But, unfortunately, it might be a learning experience. Many people just aren't aware they could be hit by a mirror."

The county says yellow warning bumps in the ground may not be enough. They'll examine the safety concerns but say the tunnel will still reopen as scheduled.