Getting to work should be faster and easier beginning Monday morning for South End and Pierce County commuters who ride the bus to downtown Seattle.
The opening of a 1.5-mile busway between South Spokane Street and the International District station on Metro's downtown Seattle bus tunnel will chop at least three minutes from the normal commuter run from Tacoma, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila, Southcenter, Renton and Kennydale.
And when Interstate 5 groans to a halt because of accidents, the busway will provide even greater time savings, officials said yesterday as they celebrated the opening of the two-lane bus-only roadway.
The busway, built by the state with federal money as part of the Interstate 90 project, follows a railroad right of way that once ran into Union Station. It cost about $4.5 million.
The busway crosses South Royal Brougham Way and South Holgate and South Lander streets. Electronic sensors buried in the busway pavement will change traffic signals as the buses near those streets, giving commuters green lights and non-stop travel.
Metro will operate 350 bus trips daily along the busway, serving 10,000 passengers.
Pierce Transit express buses will make 43 daily trips on the busway, carrying 1,500 commuters. Metro buses will enter the tunnel from the busway, but Pierce Transit buses will use surface streets in downtown Seattle.
"This is the kind of thing that will get people out of their cars," said King Cushman, director of development for Pierce Transit. "We're going to need more and more projects like this."
The busway is the first of its kind in the Seattle area.
"But it will not be the last," said Bill Dues, the state's I-90 project engineer.