Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Addressing the westbound I-90 detour confusion

By Mike Allende

After every major closure for construction or maintenance work, two of the most important questions we ask ourselves is, “How did it go, and how can we make it better?”

Could we have communicated information better? Could we coordinate with other agencies better? Can we make traffic move more efficiently? Answering those questions are vital to our ability to get important work done while creating the least amount of disruption to the public as possible.

Crews work on the fire detection system inside the Mount Baker Tunnel
as part of the I-90 Two-Way Transit Project.
After our March 27-30 westbound I-90 detour for work on the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project, we identified a few areas where we could improve to help drivers get where they needed with less confusion. And so we’re implementing some changes this weekend, when from 11 p.m. Friday, April 17 until 5 a.m. Monday, April 20, all westbound I-90 traffic will again detour to the express lanes between Bellevue Way Southeast to Rainier Avenue South.

The changes won’t take away traffic congestion – you should still plan on leaving as early as possible and consider alternate routes – but it should address some of the major concerns.

The main adjustments we’re making involve clarifying how to access Mercer Island.

All traffic for Mercer Island must still exit westbound I-90 at East Mercer Way. During the previous detour, there was confusion for some drivers on Bellevue Way and on I-90 as to how to get to the East Mercer Way exit, leading some to drive through closed areas, which is never a good idea.

This time, we’re adding more signage to make it clear which lane I-90 drivers should be in for Mercer Island (the right) and for Seattle (the left). Bellevue Way drivers will be able to use their more familiar I-90 ramp that leads directly to East Mercer Way (last time they could only use the I-90 HOV ramp) and westbound I-90. We’ll also have extra law enforcement available to help clear collisions and remind people to not drive through areas that are closed off. Remember, we close those areas for a reason and going through them puts workers and drivers at risk.

Extra signage and added law enforcement are some of the changes drivers
will see to ease confusion during this weekend’s westbound I-90 detour.

Answering a few other common questions we've heard:
  • Why is anything closed? I don’t see anyone working!: Much of the work is being done inside the I-90 tunnels, so much of the work may not be visible.
  • Why can’t you open I-90 further down?: We’re also working under Luther Burbank Park so we need the closure where we have it for worker safety. We’ve made adjustments to merge areas and are keeping two lanes of I-90 open as far as possible to try to help with traffic flow.
  • Will the I-90 Trail be open?: Yes, the trail will be open.
  • Do you have dates for future weekend work?: After this coming weekend we have two more weekends of work scheduled, May 1-4 (eastbound) and 15-18 (westbound), then our contractor will take a break from the weekend closures until the fall.

This is the third of 30 directional closures of I-90 we’ll have for this project through mid-2017 and each one will be a chance for us to learn and make the next one smoother. We’re confident the changes we made for this upcoming weekend will help. But again, it will not eliminate congestion. Anytime you close lanes on a major highway, traffic shifts to other places and it creates challenging traffic so please, if you’re going to the Mariners game, the Snoop Dogg concert or any other place this weekend, add plenty of extra time to your trip, be patient and plan your route ahead of time.


Anonymous said...

The electronic reader boards say that one lane will be open. Is that incorrect or are they referring to the express lane(s)?

Anonymous said...

If it's like last time, it consolidated down to one lane before being redirected to the express lanes; all express lanes were open once transitioned.

Anonymous said...

Considering this is going to be a recurring closure, suspending the tolls on 520 during the closures seem like it would be very helpful in encouraging other routes.

Anonymous said...

I drove it this morning. The diagram in this article just west of I-405 was accurate ... I-90 was pinched to just one westbound lane, which was then directed into the two express lanes. No westbound lanes of the main line were open. The drive took about half an hour longer than it normally would have on a Saturday morning, so the drive was tough.

Anonymous said...

Still really didn't understand why we are not seeing a single "worker" along this closed stretch. We dont need to worry about the safety of nonexistant workers do we?

Anonymous said...

Why cant this work done on non peak hours? 10pm-5am? This has been done similarly in other state to avoid unecessary traffic congestion on major roads.

Anonymous said...

Why cant this work be done at non peak hours? For ex: 10pm-5am? Which is similarly done on aother state to avoid unecessary congestion on major roads? This congestion most likely has costs businesses alot of money.

WSDOT said...

Doing the work only at night would significantly extend the amount of time needed to complete the project, and likely increase the cost as well. As it is, we have 30 planned closures through mid-2017. Doing only nighttime closures would push the project schedule back significantly.

WSDOT said...

Waving tolls on the SR 520 bridge would have a significant effect on revenue. We have to ensure that tolls are generating enough revenue to cover the debt payments and that we are applying tolls consistently and fairly. Waving tolls also wouldn’t eliminate the expected congestion from the I-90 closures. Drivers would still be stuck in traffic on an un-tolled SR 520 bridge.

Barb said...

I came from the EAST going over 90. NO indication that there was a problem. I called 911 and it said stop and go, but that's not uncommon. NO INDICATION that there was only TWO LANES! I was headed to McCaw Hall for Swan Lake which started at 1 pm. I got there at noon. It took me 2 HOURS to get from Eastgate to the N I5 entrance. UNACCEPTABLE!!!!PLEASE let people know that aren't from Seattle AHEAD of the area!

Barb said...

oops. I meant "511" (the traffic #)

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