The push to get the state legislature to fund WSDOT’s plan to improve the congested and often dangerous I-90/ SR 18 interchange and widen the narrow section of SR 18 over Tiger Mountain began last October when the cities of Snoqualmie, North Bend, Black Diamond, Maple Valley and Auburn called on the legislature to improve the “critical deficiencies” of the I-90/SR 18 interchange area.
In February, when the Senate left the project off of its $15 billion Transportation Bill, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, at the urging of the Economic Development Commission, made the trip to Olympia to personally make the request in front of the House Transportation Committee – calling on them to include the project before the bill becomes final.
House Transportation Committee Member and 5th District Representative Jay Rodne, said he’s been actively pushing for I-90/SR 18 funding during the 2015 Legislative Session – calling it his “top priority.”
This week it appears Rodne got his way when the House Transportation Committee passed their version of the transportation package – a version that included $210 million to improve the I-90/ SR 18 area.
Rodne warned earlier this month that the expensive $800 million project that would add flyover interchange ramps and widen SR 18 from Issaquah Hobart Road to I-90 would most likely have to be done in phases due to its large price tag.
According to WSDOT, if funding became available for 90/18 improvements, their first priority would be to complete design work for the westbound I-90 to westbound SR 18 flyover ramp and the widening of SR 18 from two lanes to four between Deep Creek and I-90. It’s estimated the first phase work would cost around $180 million. The WSDOT website states the project would improve safety, reduce congestion and improve freight mobility.
Transportation Bill Next Steps
Rodne said the House Transportation package now goes to a conference committee to “iron out the differences” between the Senate version and the additions made by the House.
He said he would work hard to protect the 90/18 project and has “assurances from the Chair of the House Transportation Committee that she will safeguard our project to ensure that it is included in a final transportation package agreement.”
Rodne said he hoped to have more updates next week as the House and Senate negotiate toward a final Transportation Bill.
Why Improve 90/18? East King County Growth + Freight Traffic = Congestion Nightmare
Many blame the growth of Snoqualmie Ridge, with approximately 4,500 new homes, for the interchange congestion, but according to Mayor Larson, Snoqualmie Ridge growth only represents 17% of the impacts at the I-90/SR 18 interchange. The vast majority of the traffic pressure comes from the growth down in Maple Valley, Covington, Auburn and other areas south of I-90.
Tens of thousands of east King County residents now bypass 405 and I-5 and use SR 18 to access I-90 for jobs, while almost 18 million tons of freight is transported by semi trucks annually along SR 18, a designated T-1 Primary Freight Route and Washington Strategic Freight Corridor.
Drivers waiting at the busy intersection are often backed up onto I-90, which many drivers say is just a bad accident waiting to happen. Accidents on SR-18 at Tiger Mountain frequently close the narrow highway, making a mess of alternate traffic routes through neighboring Eastside cities.