Commuters brace for the worst

Reporter staff

Impacts on regional traffic due to the I-5 closures that began last Friday is affecting nearly every commuter, from Mercer Island city employees to women trying to make their hair appointments on time.

Yvonne Defty, who works at the Community Center at Mercer View, said she would be leaving home extra early in the morning to try and beat the traffic; or at least crawl to the Island from her West Seattle home and still get to work in time.

“I’m definitely not looking forward to it,” Defty said. “I plan to come in early and work out before work and hopefully the rest of West Seattle won’t do likewise.”

Defty hopes to beat most of the traffic backups but has experienced bad congestion on the West Seattle Bridge before. She said the longest time it took her to get to work from West Seattle was an hour and a half.

“Work is your livelihood so you have to do it,” Defty said. “So if it takes an hour and a half to get to work instead of an half-hour then you just have to. And if that doesn’t work you go with plan B.”

Eileen Robinson, a paralegal who works for the city, said she would try taking some of the recommended back roads or other alternatives to avoid the congestion. She is also considering taking the bus. She expects her typical 40-minute commute to be much longer than normal. If Robinson takes the bus, she would have to leave from Federal Way and ride to downtown Seattle to catch the 550 to the Island. From the 550 she’d have to wait 30 minutes for an Island shuttle to get to city hall. In all, the commute would take an hour and a half if on schedule.

“I know all the back routes and I’ll basically be experimenting,” Robinson said. “If they’re all backed up then I’ll try the bus. If that doesn’t work out maybe I’ll work from home one day a week.”

The congestion will not only affect commuters, but Island businesses as well. Amy Bode, a receptionist at Esalonad Salon and Spa in the Island Square complex, is worried that the salon will face a number of cancellations due to the traffic.

“A lot of our clients are from the Eastside and Seattle, and it’s almost impossible for us to accommodate late appointments,” she said. “We’re a service industry, so time is money.”

Bode can only hope that clients plan their commute in advance and leave for the Island extra early.

Christine Poythress, an esthetician at the spa, is worried her parents will have trouble making it to the Island in time to babysit her two-year-old daughter. Poythress’ parents live in West Seattle and commute twice a week — Wednesdays and Thursdays — to watch their granddaughter while Poythress works.

“They usually have to leave the house at 8:45 a.m. to get to the Island on time. But recently traffic’s been so bad they’ve had to leave earlier. And it’s only going to get worse,” the beautician said.

“I’m constantly looking at the Seattle Times online traffic reports,” Poythress added. “Last night’s traffic was so bad, my parents stayed well past dinner waiting for the roads to clear.”

But business must go on, and so Poythress encourages everyone — Seattle and Eastside residents alike — to check online traffic updates regularly. Bode agrees.

“It’s going to be a funky two weeks,” she concluded.

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