By: John Knicely , Graham Johnson – KIRO 7 News
SEATTLE – The Blue Angels air show is shifting for Seafair this year with a big impact on traffic, as in I-90 won’t be closed during the show for the first time in decades. KIRO 7 found out it’s in large part because of the light rail tracks being built across Lake Washington.
When the Blue Angels fly over Lake Washington for Seafair the first weekend in August there’s a safety area that must be cleared. For the past couple of decades that included the I-90 floating bridge, which forced I-90 to be shut down for hours at a time. But this year the air show is being moved a few thousand feet to the south and east.
Seafair interim President Eric Corning pointed to the East Link Extension scheduled to open in 2023.
“We will need to move the Blue Angels off the I-90 bridge for the light rail trains to be able to move during Seafair,” Corning said. “One of the other pieces to this is the current flight box has been in its position for over 15 years. Seattle has changed, Mercer Island has changed, and it was time to be able to make some adjustments to it.”
The “flight safety box” has shifted farther south in Lake Washington, and Seafair encourages people who used to watch the jets from the bridge to try Seward Park instead.
It’s hard not to look up when you hear the roar of the Blue Angels, and in the past we’d been told that was part of the reason for closing the bridge. KIRO 7 morning anchor John Knicely asked Corning if concern over distracted drivers has changed.
“No,” he said. “This is similar to the Fourth of July with I-5 open during the fireworks show. Again we’re working closely with (the) State Patrol, (and) WSDOT to mitigate that best we can.”
During two practice sessions on Thursday, the planes still flew well north of I-90, and Trooper Rick Johnson has this message for drivers: “We know they’re going to be distracting but keep your eyes on the road don’t stop on the freeway, it’s a tow away zone and emergency parking only.”
Troopers plan to enforce that and regulate onramp traffic if necessary.
They also encourage people not to block the bike path, where some people stopped on the bridge Thursday.
And then there’s the view of the Blue Angels show. Corning insists viewers along Lake Washington will hardly notice the changes.
“The view for the Logboom folks should be essentially the same,” he said.
So the show will go on from 3 p.m.- 4 p.m. each day August 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and this year so will I-90 traffic.
The Blues will be parked at Seattle’s Museum of Flight while in town for Seafair.