Here it comes – better access for SR 167 HOT lanes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Laura Johnson

We’ll be returning the SR 167 HOT lanes to the
original signal line striping
Current SR 167 HOT lanes with the double line striping
The HOT lanes have been around for six years – can you believe it? If you haven’t used them, you’ve likely driven by them. One thing that makes people hesitate to use them is that you can only get in and out of the lanes at the sections with dashed lines. This raises questions like: What if I can’t get out when I need to? What if I miss my exit? With my sense of direction, who knows where I’d end up? Well, with some new changes, you might just think about trying them soon.

The most frequent feedback we’ve heard about the HOT lanes is that people don’t like the limited access. We’re listening to this feedback, and starting the night of July 28, crews will be out grinding off the inside stripe of the double white line – the line that keeps you from getting in and out of the HOT lane at any old spot you want. They’ll be painting over the dashed lines, and the end result will be a single white stripe between the regular lanes and the HOT lane. So like an HOV lane, you can enter and exit wherever you want. When you’ve got a safe gap in traffic, of course.

They’ll still be HOT lanes – people who drive alone will still have to pay the toll, and carpools, vanpools, buses and motorcycles will still be able to use the lanes for free. This will just make it easier to get in and out of the lane.

I’ve heard some people are concerned about the safety of this change. But as I mentioned, the access will be just like an HOV lane, and we have those all over the place with no major problems. We’ll be testing how the new access works in a study that goes along with this project. It’s actually pretty cool because the Federal Highway Administration gave us money to implement and study this, and our study could affect HOT lanes around the country.

When the striping work begins, you’ll be able to read about it on our construction updates website.  So watch out for nighttime lane closures and work on SR 167 between Renton and Auburn for the next month or so. And watch for those single white stripes to appear – freedom!

#I90to1 keeps on truckin'

by Bart Treece

Something has been missing from the morning commutes this week, where westbound I-90 has been reduced to a single lane near Bellevue Way for expansion joint replacement. Traffic has moved relatively smoothly so it’s only natural to ask, “Where are the foreboding traffic tie-ups the clairvoyants of the commute have dubbed, ‘Carpocalypse?’”

Click to view a Storify from today's tweets

The smooth sailing on the expressway and throughout the Eastside and Seattle area can be attributed to you, the commuter. You are doing your part in keeping regional traffic moving during construction. The proof is in the numbers. If you’re ready to get your inner traffic geek on, here you go.

Follow the red line on this graph which shows the commute beginning earlier on Monday, and then holding steady throughout the day, effectively spreading the traffic. Drivers left for work earlier, with the single westbound I-90 lane carrying nearly double the number of typical vehicles in the 4 a.m. hour. By 7 a.m., the peak hour of diversion, westbound I-90 was carrying nearly 60 percent fewer cars and trucks. 

With folks diverting to other routes or staying off the road, it allowed drivers to squeeze into a single lane approaching the construction zone. Travel times from Issaquah to Seattle peaked at 35 minutes. So, even though it looked like a small backup approaching, it was still a slog.

The toughest part of the construction work is welding the two halves of the expansion joints that equal 82 feet. This began at 6 a.m. today, and could take up to 30 hours. After the work passes a series of tests, concrete will be poured in to seal the joint and will need time to harden. To get an idea of why this work needed to happen, here's a look at one of the expansion joints the contractor pulled out.

These circles show the cracks in the steel, and there's not much keeping it together.

With previous closures, we've seen drivers return to their old habits after a few days, which results in longer travel times and bigger backups. Hopefully, everyone will keep doing what they've been doing so come Friday, life can return back to normal.

I-90 closure: Work progresses, weekday traffic to be tested

Sunday, July 20, 2014

by Mike Allende

Our big westbound I-90 expansion joint replacement project started Friday night and work throughout the weekend has gone well with the project remaining right on schedule.

As of Sunday morning, contractor crews had replaced half of two of the huge expansion joints at the East Channel Bridge and were putting down concrete over the new joints. Still to come are the removal of the other half of the old joints, installation of new joints, a 30-hour welding job, and more concrete pouring.

Concrete sealing part of the new expansion joint

The concrete needs about 12 hours to cure but workers will be monitoring it this afternoon. The concrete needs to reach a strength of 2,500 psi (pounds per square inch) for traffic to go over it. Whenever that happens, we’ll be switching the work zone to the other side of the highway to work on the other half of the joints. That is scheduled to happen around 9 p.m. Monday morning drivers will see traffic moving through the work zone in the Phase 2 configuration.

Phase 2 - Monday - Friday morning

From a traffic standpoint, things have been great! We saw no significant slowdowns on westbound I-90 Saturday despite the Sounders match and traffic continued to flow freely on Sunday for people headed into Seattle for the Bite of Seattle or other events. Travel times from Issaquah to Bellevue were about 11 minutes, and about 16 minutes to Seattle.

Monday, of course, is going to be a different story. Even with some people adjusting their plans, telecommuting, taking vacation, we’re going to see significant backups. There’s no way around it. Definitely consider alternate routes but even with that, leave as early as possible. I can’t stand stressing out being late, so leave early. People have been asking for advice and leaving early is really the best I can give you. This will also affect other travel routes, such as I-405, SR 520 and even I-5 in Seattle. Your weekday commute will begin earlier and last longer.

#I90to1 Tweets
We’re adjusting our scheduled here in the Traffic Management Center as well. Morning Guy will be in at 5 a.m. and is on point until 2 p.m. monitoring traffic and updating people on our @wsdot_traffic Twitter handle about what’s going on westbound I-90 (and throughout the region). Afternoon Gal takes over at 2 p.m. and will be here until 8 p.m. all week. If you’re a Twitter user please check in with us as we want to get you the best, most timely information to help with your commute. Use the hashtag #I90to1.

And don’t forget, you can also find travel times and check out our traffic cameras and real-time traffic map so you have an idea of what you’re headed into. This work week is going to be a challenge but stick with us and we’ll keep getting information out so you know exactly what’s going on. Want to know more? Check out the I-90 Survival Guide, and our recent blog post on the I-90 express lanes

Wildfire Road Closure Roundup

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last updated: 4:00 p.m.

Signing off for the weekend: Please check the travel alerts web page  for the latest information.

Active wildfires in north central Washington have led to the closure of multiple highways. Conditions are likely to change throughout the day. Be sure to check our travel alerts web page before you head out.

Eastbound I-90 near Kittitas

Update: I-90 eastbound has reopened.

I-90 is scheduled to reopen at 3:00 p.m. It was originally scheduled to open at 2:30 but remains closed due to blowing dust and poor visibility.

Eastbound I-90 near Kittitas is closed, and will be for at least most of today. Detour around the closure area begins at exit 115, taking travelers on Old Vantage Highway and adding two hours of additional driving time.
Conditions on I-90 earlier today.

About four to six inches of ash is in the area after a brush fire Tuesday. Around 40 mph are predicted through the area, so whiteout conditions similar to a blizzard are anticipated to impact eastbound traffic. Westbound lanes of I-90 are open as they are separated from the eastbound lanes by a hill that is acting like a barrier against the wind and ash.

With US 2 also closed (see below), we expect to see about 8,000 more vehicles traveling on I-90 on Friday and about 9,000 more vehicles traveling on Sunday. Could be about as bad as a Memorial weekend day travel. If your headed that way we'll need to plan for added travel time and pack your patience.

US 2 from Cole’s Corner to Leavenworth

US 2 Stevens Pass is closed from Cole’s Corner to Leavenworth. Both SR 207 and Chumstick Highway are open as a detour to Leavenworth. If you’re coming from the west, take SR 207 to get to Lake Wenatchee.

US 97 closures

US 97 at milepost 275 today
A wildfire named the Carlton Complex fire has US 97 closed in both directions from Chelan to SR 17.

UPDATE 3:56 p.m.:  SR 153 just reopened again. For the second time today.

SR 20 from Loup Loup summit to Okanogan

SR 20 is closed east of Twisp in both directions, starting at Finley Canyon to the summit of Loup Loup Pass. West side traffic headed east can still access Winthrop using SR 20. 

Again, these closures are likely to change throughout the day so keep an eye out on our travel alerts web page for the latest information. 

I-90 express lanes: vital for both directions

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

by Mike Allende

One of the most common questions we’ve received regarding the upcoming I-90 expansion joint replacement project is will the express lanes operate only westbound during the lane reductions. The answer: No.
The I-90 express lanes entrance is located well
beyond the expansion joint work zone.
There’s a few reasons for making that decision.
  • It wouldn’t really help. The I-90 lane closures end well before the express lanes start. It wouldn’t help any traffic bypass the closure or speed things up through the work zone. At the express lanes entrance, there will be three lanes open on the mainline and two others in the express lanes with traffic traveling near the speed limit. It will serve the morning commute as it normally does.
  • It would cause serious problems for eastbound drivers. Most of those people going westbound will at some point have to return eastbound. Knowing this, we operate the express lanes eastbound from 2 p.m. until 5 a.m. the following morning. If we kept them westbound during the afternoon commute, Seattle-area traffic, from transit, to carpoolers to single-occupancy vehicles, would grind to a halt. We would see serious backups both directions of I-5, spilling onto city streets, jamming Rainier Avenue and making it very difficult to get out of downtown Seattle. With lower volumes of traffic westbound in the afternoon, keeping the express lanes that direction all day would hurt eastbound traffic significantly without improving westbound.
That said, we’re flexible. We will be monitoring traffic very closely throughout the closure. If we see traffic patterns flow in a way that adjusting the express lane schedule might help without causing too much damage to eastbound traffic, we can do that the following day. But it’s unlikely that would happen during the peak commute times.

Close-up look at I-90 traffic
We are adjusting the express lanes schedule for the Sounders’ 1 p.m. game Saturday, July 19 against Tottenham, running them westbound from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and switching to eastbound by 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, July 20, the express lanes will be closed from 5 a.m. until 11 a.m. for the Seafair Triathlon. It will open westbound after that until 2 p.m. Monday, which should help traffic headed to the Seattle Center for the Bite of Seattle.

If we felt changing the express lanes and running them westbound throughout the closure would help more than hurt, we’d do it. We want to keep traffic moving as well as possible throughout the I-90 work. We’ve adjusted in the past when it makes sense. But in this case, it simply would do more harm than good.


Featured Flickr Photo

see caption
Digging it out

Blog Archive