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Originally published September 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 24, 2007 at 3:34 PM

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Reopening of downtown Seattle bus tunnel goes smoothly

After two years of closure for the installation of rail, the downtown Seattle bus tunnel reopened today. "It feels like we're back in Seattle,"...

Seattle Times staff reporter

After two years of closure for the installation of rail, the downtown Seattle bus tunnel reopened today.

"It feels like we're back in Seattle," said Lamar McBride, waiting for a bus in the Westlake station. He rides the bus daily from Capitol Hill to Bellevue. "It's really nice and so convenient."

The $94 million project put new rails in the tunnel so it can be shared with Sound Transit trains beginning in 2009.

"Things are going really well," said Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke, a bus rider herself. She said she was on the first northbound bus in the tunnel today.

For riders, it was a relief to again be indoors while waiting for a bus. "It's nice to be warm again," said Julie Kadingo, who rides Metro from Capitol Hill to Southcenter. "It's great."

Tom Green was waiting at Westlake for a bus to the airport as the 194 sped past. He was philosophical; he's used to missing buses. While the tunnel was closed, he said he had to stand on Second Avenue for his bus.

Green just started riding the bus to work this year and had never ridden in the tunnel. "For the winter, this will be a lot nicer," said Green, who commutes from the Broadview neighborhood to the airport.

While today's opening went smoothly, the union that represents bus drivers has raised several safety issues, including a fear that passengers may get whacked by bus mirrors because the roadbed inside the tunnel has been lowered.

The lowering of the tunnel floor brings the mirrors down to head levels, and the metal sides of the bus closer to the curb.

There are no railings on the boarding platforms, but they have a yellow stripe to encourage people to stand back. Metro added strobe lights to the mirrors, a public-address announcement and warning signs.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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