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Mercer Mess: A Traffic Problem Of The Past?

Meghan Walker
08/27/2012

For the first time in 44 years, Seattle's Mercer Street is a two–way boulevard. The city hopes it will help to ease the so–called "Mercer Mess" that has bothered drivers for years. KUOW's Meghan Walker was there this morning to check out the scene.

TRANSCRIPT

Ben Moore: "You gotta take Mercer to Fairview to Eastlake!"

Meghan Walker: "This looks like a mess."

Moore: "It is a mess!"

That's Ben Moore. He works for a traffic–control company. He's showing drivers where they need to go.

Moore: "Angry, angry, angry; they're mad. They don't like this at all."

He's directing traffic on Valley Street, one block north of Mercer. Things aren't exactly less messy down here as drivers are trying to make sense of the new layout.

There are a number of changes. For one, there are now three lanes in each direction. And drivers can go straight after the off ramp from I–5. The big back–ups this morning were at Fairview and Westlake. Police were out directing traffic as drivers tried to take Westlake to downtown Seattle.

The Seattle Department of Transportation says drivers will continue to see police until they figure out the timing. They say it's going to be tricky until people learn to change their habits.

Here's reaction from four commuters: Kenny Mann, Kristen Pearcy, Dale Shifler and Andrew Christou.

Mann: "I usually take a left off there, so I don't know where I'm going. (Laughs) I'm lost."

Pearcy: "I like the wide sidewalks and I like the lights that they're putting in. And they're moving along at a really quick pace, so I'm a little impressed by that. I'm not sure what's going to happen with the traffic flow down here."

Shifler: "I don't think it's going to be a big advantage for drivers other than straightening out the inbound route. But everything eventually is working out better for pedestrians and bikers and stuff."

Christou: "I think people have to take a look at the big picture, and whenever you implement a new system, you gotta let it flow for a little bit to work out the kinks. So you gotta give things a chance."

The traffic director Ben Moore says people aren't there just yet.

Moore: "It's people not noticing; they're just in their morning routine. They'll get used it."

The city says this afternoon's commute could see big back–ups along Fairview just south of Mercer. The next stage of the project is to open up Fairview and Valley. Eventually, westbound Mercer will extend all the way to Seattle Center.

For KUOW News, I'm Meghan Walker.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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