5th District State Senator Mark Mullet says he knows it. Representative Jay Rodne has repeatedly said he knows it. Even the Washington State Department of Transportation knows it. The I-90/SR 18 interchange is a disaster. Drivers who regularly travel the interchange often describe it as something more – dangerous.
The 2015 Transportation Bill will provide $150 million to improve the area with the widening of SR 18 near I-90 and a flyover ramp, but that funding isn’t slated to come through until 2023. Both Mullet and Rodne have stated that is too long to wait.
After two serious injury accidents in the past two months, one where a car burst into flames and a woman narrowly escaped with her life, it appears the state is prepared to try to push up improvements at the interchange – and legislators are prepared to push forward funding to do just that… even on a bi-partisan level.
Although the longterm, permanent interchange solution is years away, after a series of meetings with legislators and City of Snoqualmie officials, WSDOT is proposing three projects to improve the dangers that currently exist during peak commute hours – when drivers trying to get through the congested and signal controlled interchange are often forced onto I-90 while they wait… with 70mph traffic zipping by.
Interim Proposed Solutions to Improve 90/18 interchange
1) Hardening of the shoulder of westbound SR 18 near I-90 to provide a second lane for an additional mile. Currently the two lanes only exist for about 1/4 mile and then merge to one lane heading toward Tiger Mt. This is what backs drivers onto I-90 while waiting.
2) Harden the shoulder of the westbound I-90 exit to SR 18 to provide a dedicated right turn only lane for traffic heading toward Snoqualmie Parkway. This would provide three lanes on the exit where currently only two exist. This will also help decrease the number of cars pushed onto I-90 while at the interchange.
3) Provide a dedicated on-ramp lane for traffic entering westbound I-90 from Snoqualmie Parkway. There are plans to close the weigh station before construction of a future flyover ramp, but Senator Mullet said this dedicated on-ramp lane could be done now, without moving the truck scales.
The cost of these three improvements is likely $15-$20 million. Legislators will try to fund the projects during the 2017 legislative session when a new two-year state budget is hammered out.
More Immediate 90/18 Improvements
WSDOT is also moving ahead with plans to install signage in the next six months that will advise motorists traveling on eastbound I-90 of traffic near the 90/18 interchange. That signage will advise motorist traveling east – and not using the interchange – to move left to avoid interchange related congestion.
WSDOT is also looking at options for exit 25 that would give drivers exiting toward Snoqualmie Ridge more of a buffer from drivers stopped in the far right lane of I-90 waiting to enter SR 18. This option could include lane re-striping on I-90 near SR 18.
Senator Mullet commented, “The interchange in Snoqualmie is a safety risk and traffic disaster. Snoqualmie residents have done an excellent job of highlighting the importance of making immediate improvements to this interchange and my goal is to fund the above three projects in the 2017 legislative session so they can start construction within twelve months.”