Massive Backups on Westbound I-90 Next Week; Hour-Long Commute Predicted from Issaquah to Seattle

If you thought this week’s traffic backups between Issaquah and North Bend were bad due to road work on I-90, get ready for a new major roadway repair project that could trigger a migraine if you’re stuck in the predicted traffic backups. It’s expected to be so bad that WSDOT in encouraging commuters who work in Seattle or Bellevue to work from home if possible.

THREE I-90 Lanes to Close Near Mercer Island

Drivers have a little less than one week left to make plans for seven days of major lane closures along westbound Interstate 90 between Bellevue and Mercer Island, as the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will close up to THREE lanes around the clock.

Beginning Friday, July 18, 2014, WSDOT contractor crews  will replace two aging and deteriorating 92-foot-long expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge.

Expansion joints play a critical role in how a bridge functions, allow for sections of expansion and contraction with changing temperatures and traffic. WSDOT crews have made several emergency fixes to aging East Channel expansion joints, but a permanent fix is needed.

East Channel Bridge. [Web screenshot]

East Channel Bridge. [Web screenshot]

Find Alternate Routes, Alternate Work Times/Options, Best Travel Times

The I-90 lane closures will also affect traffic on many of the Eastside’s key commuter routes, including I-405 and SR 520. WSDOT urges drivers to make alternate plans such as carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, using an alternate route, or adjusting their schedule to take advantage of off-peak travel times.

Traffic engineers estimate the best time to drive will be before 6AM; between 11AM and 2PM; and then after 7PM. 85,000 drivers use westbound I-90 daily and engineers estimate half of those will need to use another route/alternate travel mode to keep travel times at one hour or less from Issaquah to Seattle.

“We need drivers to change the way they commute for seven days so that WSDOT can complete this important safety work,” said WSDOT Traffic Engineer Mark Bandy. “We will see backups from this work, but if enough drivers do their part we can keep them manageable.”

 CLOSURE DETAILS:

  • Westbound I-90 will be reduced to one through lane near Bellevue Way from 9:30PM Friday, July 18th to 5AM Friday, July 25th.
  • Three lanes of westbound I-90 WILL be open at the Bellevue Way interchange as the ramps from Bellevue Way and I-405 join mainline I-90.
  • The westbound I-90 HOV lane WILL be OPEN TO ALL between I-405 and the east entrance to the center roadway.
  • Complete lane closure information and animated maps are available on the project website.

The I-90 center roadway

The center roadway will operate on its normal schedule.  The entrance near East Mercer Way will remain open only to HOV vehicles when the lanes are in the westbound direction. The entrance to the center roadway is after the construction zone so changing the express lanes operation will not help westbound I-90 drivers get past the work.

Travelers who use westbound I-90 should consider the following:

  • Choose an alternative travel mode such as car or vanpooling, public transportation, walking or cycling.
  • Set up a short-term Good To Go! account to use westbound SR 520 during the work.
  • Consider telecommuting.
  • Drivers heading westbound into Bellevue may want to consider exiting early and using surface streets to reach their destinations.
  • Allow plenty of extra time and expect additional congestion on alternate routes including SR 520 and surface streets.
  • Use westbound I-90 early in the morning or late at night.
  • Delay or reschedule discretionary trips.

SPECIAL EVENT TO ADD MORE TRAFFIC PRESSURE:

Drivers should also be aware of several special events in the Seattle area occurring during the closure that could cause additional congestion:

  • The Bite of Seattle takes place at the Seattle Center July 18th-20th.
  • The Seattle Sounders have a match against the Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, July 19th at CenturyLink Field
  • The Seattle Mariners begin a 7 game home stand on Monday, July 21st against the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles.

“There is never a good time to do a closure like this because someone is always going to be inconvenienced,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “However this is vital highway preservation and safety work.”

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