"Clearly, 520 drivers' adrenaline starts pumping when they see a road that's usually a parking lot, wide open," says Jim Bak, spokesman for the Kirkland-based INRIX traffic-data company.
Motorists are diverting to other roads, chiefly the toll-free Interstate 90 bridge. Regionally, commutes were 5 mph to 10 mph faster, because of the holidays, since tolls began on Dec. 29. Officials say this week will provide a more accurate picture — but on Friday the state Department of Transportation (DOT) hedged its bets by saying traffic might not settle until February, given the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
To take one recent example, INRIX found that in the 5 p.m. hour on Jan. 3 the average speed approaching the bridge, heading from the Eastside to Seattle, was 65 mph near the 92nd Avenue Northeast overpass. Usually the average speed there is only 19 mph.