Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I-90 express lanes: vital for both directions

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.


Anonymous said...

So if WSDOT knew about this conceivably more than 6 months ago since the expansion joints themselves take 6 months to fabricate why are we just finding out about this 2 weeks before. WSDOT should have sent flyers like they did for the I405 construction done in the Bothell area and had the signs flashing this information periodically for the last 6 months. WSDOT is incompetent. I thought bringing in the gal from ODOT would help bring WSDOT into better operating terms, but guess I was wrong, maybe WSDOT needs a complete shake up in leadership.

Bart Treece said...

It was still a matter of coordinating the closure with other projects, like SR 520. There was also the issue with the peregrine falcons (a protected species) that nests on the bridge. We can't work until the young ones are able to fly, which is right about now. We've been mentioning this upcoming closure since before the summer to local media and through our ListServes. As soon as we had a firm date, we made sure to let you know so you can plan ahead. For more information, make sure to check out the project page http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/wbeastchnlbrdgexpjointrpr/.

Anonymous said...

I sure wish motorcyles could split lanes legally in this state.

Anonymous said...

Phase II shows that the westbound Bellevue Way on ramp is open, but yesterday it was closed. What's going on?

Bart Treece said...

The Bellevue Way HOV ramp was open yesterday, and continues to be available for all vehicles during this final stage of the project. Did you see something different? We'd like to know.

Anonymous said...

Bart- There was a trailer parked just north of the ramp on Bellevue Way which read I-90 WB Ramp Closed. There were also cones in the lane. I turned around and went to I-405

Bart Treece said...

RE: Bellevue Way sign - I drove through there this morning. The sign is alternating messages that notify folks about the general purpose ramp being closed, and advising all traffic to use the HOV ramp.

Want to know said...

With all the rain will the project finish on time

Bart Treece said...

@Want to know - It looks like the worst of the weather is behind us and the project is on schedule to be off the road by 5 a.m. Friday morning.

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