Despite tweaks, Mercer Mess seems no better

Tuesday, October 18, 2016by  Jon Osterberg
My gut told me so, and now a new story agrees: Despite costly changes, the Mercer Mess is still a nightmare.
     Before this past January, I drove Seattle's Mercer corridor (shown here on a tranquil day) infrequently during rush hour. But since PEMCO moved its headquarters after Christmas one mile north to Dexter Avenue, I drive it regularly. Virtually all of my work colleagues who commute via I-5 deal with Mercer each day.
     What I know is this: the city has done much to try and unclog Mercer Street and its neighboring roads. Mercer itself has been widened and opened to two-way traffic, and its traffic signals have been fine-tuned to improve traffic flow.
     But those improvements and others have cut the Mercer commute time by just two seconds over the past two years.
     While located on Eastlake Avenue, PEMCO employees had a ringside seat to observe South Lake Union's swelling congestion. I recently wrote about how my own commute time grew from 4 to 15 minutes to drive five blocks (and then from 20 to 55 minutes to reach I-5 from Dexter, after our move). I chalk that up to the construction boom in South Lake Union, most notably relocating there.
     What I-5 commuters also contend with while driving Mercer is traffic from other recent arrivals like, Expedia, and an expanded Gates Foundation and Tommy Bahama headquarters, with Google set to expand on Mercer Street in 2019.
     It's of no use to play "what if," yet still ... what if Seattle voters had not voted to kill the Bay Freeway in 1972? Might South Lake Union see less gridlock today and in the upcoming Google years?

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