By Ethan J. Bergerson
Just in time for summer, we're opening a new stretch of pavement to carpools and transit riders several months early to keep traffic moving in the heavily congested southbound stretch of State Route 167 in Auburn. The new lane was originally planned to be opened in early 2017 as an extension of the SR 167 HOT Lanes, but now we're going to open the new 3.5 mile stretch of road to HOV travel early. That's like being able to drive across 50 football fields stretched end-to-end beyond the point where carpools and buses have to exit the HOT Lanes today.
Many SR 167 commuters have already noticed the new lanes between 37th Street Southwest and 15th Street Southwest which were built as part of the SR 167 8th to 277th Southbound HOT Lane extension project. We've been listening to questions about why these lanes have been barreled off to traffic and agree that opening these lanes to HOV travel now will give much needed relief to carpoolers and bus riders, while helping to ease some of the congestion in the regular lanes.
We want to provide the benefits of the new lane to SR 167 users as soon as possible. The pavement is ready to be driven on now, so we are opening this to carpoolers and bus riders early while we finish roadway widening for the full 8-mile extension and installing new toll equipment.
At 5 a.m. Sunday, June 5, we'll open this new lane as a 2+ HOV lane. This will help keep traffic moving through the area where congestion that tends to build at the end of the HOT lane.
For now, single occupant vehicles using the southbound HOT lanes will need to exit the HOT lane at 37th Street Northwest and continue their trip in the general-purpose lanes. Carpoolers and transit buses will be able to continue their trip through the newly opened segment. This is similar to the southbound I-405 express toll lanes, which transition to a HOV lane in Bellevue. After the HOT lane opens, solo drivers will also have the option to pay a toll for a faster trip.
Before we can open the new 3.5 miles of HOV lane, contractor crews will need a weekend of ramp and lane closures at the SR 167/ State Route 18 interchange. So, if you're planning on using SR 167 and SR 18 through Auburn and Algona the weekend of June 3-5, expect delays—or better yet, use alternate routes. For full closure details, visit the King County Construction page.
As construction progresses on the SR 167 HOT Lane extension, additional southbound segments of these lanes will be similarly opened early to carpools and buses. Once tolling equipment has been installed and tested in early 2017, the new lanes will be added to the SR 167 HOT Lane system creating a nearly 14-mile continuous southbound stretch of HOT lanes from Renton to Pacific.