The Washington State Legislature continued work during its 3rd special session, passing a $16.1 billion transportation bill on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The bill will be funded by an 11.9 cent gas tax increase phased in over the next two years.
Within the bill’s long list of projects sits $150 million for I-90/SR 18 interchange improvements – and maybe a little bit of hope for Eastside and South Eastern King County commuters accustomed to delays at the often congested, signalized interchange.
The House still needs to approve the accompanying bonding and project spending bills, but 5th District Representative and House Transportation Committee Member Jay Rodne said he expected that to happen this week, saying “there is plenty of support for both bills in the House.”
Rep. Rodne explained the original $211 million proposed for the interchange improvements was reduced to $150 million in the final bill because the WSDOT thinks it can complete the work for less.
According to the WSDOT website, if funding were to become available for I-90/SR work 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.”
Just this month WSDOT stated the environmental review work for a new direct ramp from WB I-90 to WB SR 18 was complete and just needed funding to move forward.
WSDOT states the direct ramp would improve safety and traffic flow and reduce congestion at the signalized intersections on either side of I-90.
Currently drivers have to travel through several signals to get from WB I-90 to WB SR 18. A direct flyover westbound ramp would reduce travel times for both commuters and freight traffic and in turn also reduce delays for drivers traveling on eastbound I-90 to Snoqualmie Parkway with additional green time at the off-ramp signal.
According to the Transportation Bill, funding for the 90/18 improvements is slated for 2023, but Rep. Rodne stated the funds will come sooner and he will work with WSDOT to expedite the project. He said his goal is to see construction begin in 18-24 months, which he admitted is ambitious, but that he plans to push to reach it.
The $150 million project does not specifically include funding to relocate the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) Truck Scale station at the busy interchange, which City of Snoqualmie officials, WSDOT and WSP all agree would ease congestion from Snoqualmie Parkway to the westbound I-90 on-ramp.
Rodne explained as all parties are open to the weigh station relocation, they will work to include it in the project’s overall scope.
For more information on the WSDOT’s future plan for I-90/SR 18 interchange improvements and SR 18 widening visit WSDOT Project Info Page.