Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Breaking ground and building a better transportation system

By Allie Breyer

Last month, in collaboration with Sound Transit, the City of Kirkland, design-builder Graham Contracting Ltd., and many regional partners, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the I-405/NE 85th St Interchange and Inline BRT Station Project at the Lee Johnson car dealership on Northeast 85th Street near Interstate 405 in Kirkland. This event also marked the beginning of construction for Sound Transit’s Stride BRT system on I-405.

Breaking ground on this project marks a significant step forward in enhancing public transportation, mobility, and connectivity for everyone in Kirkland and along the I-405 corridor.

Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar speaks about the benefits of the 85th Interchange Project and
Bus Rapid Transit for Kirkland and other communities

What's this project all about?

We are working to reconstruct and improve the I-405/Northeast 85th Street interchange. This project's key innovation is adding a new middle level, with a multimodal hub, to the interchange.

In this hub, transit riders will benefit from a brand-new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station connecting to local and regional transit. Pedestrians and bicyclists will enjoy wider sidewalks on Northeast 85th Street and improved connectivity to BRT and the broader regional transit network. Carpoolers and express toll lane (ETL) users will have the convenience of direct access ramps to the I-405 ETL system, streamlining their commute.

A rendering of the new interchange design in Kirkland

Why are we so excited about this project?

Well, let's dive into why this project matters and how we’re working with our partners to improve your daily commute, support your community, protect our natural resources, and make our region more accessible and connected.

1. Improving your daily commute

BRT will offer faster and more reliable bus service, reducing travel times by up to 20 minutes on popular routes. Whether traveling from Bellevue to Burien or Lynnwood to Bellevue, your journey will be significantly quicker.

But that's not all – this project includes building direct access ramps to and from the ETL system on I-405. These ramps will eliminate maneuvering across general purpose lanes to access the ETL. The best part? You can use the ETLs when you need them, adding more options and convenience for your daily commute.

2. Supporting the Kirkland community

This project is more than just building infrastructure; this project supports the City of Kirkland’s larger vision for a safer, healthier, and more vibrant community.

As Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet said during the ceremony, "In the coming years, this neighborhood surrounding the BRT station will blossom with opportunities for affordable housing, park amenities, high tech and family-wage jobs, commercial and retail services and new school capacity. Kirkland is all in on BRT and the amazing interchange that will make it all possible. We will continue to be an ally and advocate in bringing this generational mobility infrastructure to life."

Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet (center) discusses the 85th Interchange Project
with our agency's David Gerla and Diana Giraldo

3. Working towards a more sustainable future

Environmental stewardship and sustainability are central to the work our agency does. In designing and building this project, we are supporting a transportation system that helps our climate and promotes healthier communities.

  • More sustainable transportation options: The new NE 85th Street Interchange will be a multimodal hub, designed so that carpooling and using public transportation will be more convenient and efficient than driving alone. More folks sharing rides or the bus means fewer cars on the road and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Removing fish barriers: We will also be removing and correcting a fish barrier to help with salmon and steelhead recovery and to meet our tribal treaty obligations. Fixing fish barriers is essential for preserving ecological balance, sustaining local economies, respecting cultural traditions of local tribes, creating jobs, and promoting the long-term health and resilience of our state.
  • Replanting native, adaptive plants and trees: While some tree removal is necessary during construction, we aim to minimize it as much as we can. Many trees we remove will be repurposed for stream habitat restoration. At the end of construction, we will replant more trees than were removed, focusing on native species to improve the environment and control non-native plants.

4. Powered by partnerships

This project exemplifies what we can achieve when we work together. As Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said during his groundbreaking remarks, Sound Transit, the City of Kirkland, and King County -- as well as countless businesses, local organizations, and community members – partnered with us to get where we are today.

We look forward to continuing collaborating to create a transportation system that works for all, regardless of how they choose to travel.

Elected officials and members of partner agencies across the I-405 corridor
celebrate the start of construction.

What work is happening now?

If you live, work, or drive through Kirkland, you may see construction crews working in and nearby the project area.

This fall, work includes installing signs, placing erosion control (orange fencing, straw), conducting field surveys (potholing, geotechnical borings), removing vegetation and trees, installing drainage, and diverting a stream for stream restoration work.

Construction work will pick up over the next two years. We expect to complete most of this project by winter of 2026.

How can I stay informed?

For more information, please visit our project webpage. You can also sign up for project email updates by emailing us at That's also a good email to send us any questions you may have about the project. Or you can call us at 425-224-2423.

We look forward to delivering a project that benefits our community for generations to come.