Sidewalk Driving: illegal moves hit new Low as frustrated Drivers wait for I-90/SR-18 interchange Improvements

Ask drivers who regularly use the I-90/SR 18 interchange what they think about the often congested, slightly antiquated, signal-controlled interchange – and you will most likely get an earful.

If you were on Snoqualmie Parkway on Friday, July 15th around 4:30PM, you might have found yourself screaming in your car, with drivers waiting through light after light trying to get through the interchange – and traffic backed up nearly a mile all the way to Swenson Drive. There was no accident at this point either…. that came around 6PM.

In fact, it got so bad on Friday that one truck took to driving on the walking path adjacent Snoqualmie Parkway – leading to 911 call from one frustrated driver. Late Sunday afternoon a similar traffic nightmare resumed in the same spot – with normal traffic congestion only exasperated by the busy summer travel season.

Driver attempting to avoid traffic backups by driving on Snoqualmie Pkwy walking path near Jacobia Street, 7/15/16

Driver attempting to avoid traffic backups by driving on Snoqualmie Pkwy walking path near Jacobia Street, 7/15/16. Photo: Maggie Kelley

Dangerous Interchange

The word drivers most often use for the headache-causing interchange is dangerous, with eastbound traffic regularly backed up onto I-90 while vehicles wait to merge onto SR 18 – sometimes as far as a mile. During the past few weeks, approximately three serious accidents occurred on this stretch of 70MPH I-90 where right lane traffic sits and waits.  This is coupled by narrow, un-lit lanes traveling over the Tiger Mountain summit, where there are also often accidents.

The interchange is also filled with large semis making their way east and west via the two freeways transporting goods and products. The majority of commuters using the interchange, though, are southeast King County residents making their way to and from the Eastside using SR 18 to avoid the notorious traffic on SR 167 and I-405. As a result, backups over Tiger Mt. in the morning and onto I-90 in the evening are now commonplace.

Solution on the Far Horizon

During the 2015 state legislative session, $150 million of the $16 billion Transportation Bill (funded by a gas tax) was earmarked for I-90/SR 18 improvements, including possible flyover ramps and a SR 18 expansion to 4 lanes between I-90 and Tiger Mountain.

All good news, but unfortunately the funding isn’t scheduled to come through until 2023. Even with Snoqualmie Ridge home construction ending next year, with a new 5,000 home community planned near Black Diamond, and skyrocketing home prices in the Seattle-Bellevue area redefining the suburbs, traffic is predicted to get worse.

So what are the interim plans?

5th District Representative Jay Rodne said he’s working to build a coalition of East King County Representatives and Senators to join together and propose legislation next session to advance the 90/18 project timeline by at least three years.

Police Chief Plans to Address Interchange Traffic Violations

Via email, and in response to one resident’s concern over last Friday’s Snoqualmie Parkway ‘traffic nightmare,’ interim Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaeffer said SPD will have increased patrol presence near the interchange to combat illegal traffic moves, including improper u-turns and use of the right turn-only lane that accesses westbound I-90 – moves that residents report seeing frustrated drivers do to ‘cheat’ their way through the interchange faster.

As Snoqualmie’s city limits stop just before the busy interchange, Chief Schaeffer also said he would forward concerns onto the Washington State Patrol and Washington State Department of Transportation so that they might also step up their patrols in the area.

Until then, patience will be needed from drivers – especially on summer weekends. Tip: Local drivers often suggest using SR 202 to travel between Snoqualmie and North Bend, if possible, during evening commute hours as a way to avoid the 90/18 mess.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. John Cullen says

    I think that in addition to our representatives getting a coalition together of East King County Senators of Representatives we would be wise also to get members of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma to be aware of this. Safety and time are to be gained here- both of which help them get their goods. This is a problem that doesn’t solely affect residents of the area but the greater area as a whole- as Hwy 18 is a major road in the Western Washington landscape for all traffic.

  2. I have to laugh when I remember all those hundreds of days and nightsI worked at the scale house there and first saw signs that a road, much less a parkway, was planned going up that hill where Echo Glen and a few houses were all that was there. If a semi made a right turn back then to avoid the scale you knew he had no place to go,

  3. Michael Williams says

    Updating the signal sequencing would be an immediate improvement. Often the green light for autos headed north (towards Snoqualmie Ridge) has just a few vehicles waiting whereas the light that allows vehicle to enter SR 18 from the East has 100s of vehicles waiting.
    The Northeast 1-90 off ramp to Snoqualmie Parkway needs an additional lane to allow vehicles to enter the Parkway via a yield sign instead if waiting in line for the light. This could be accomplished simply by re striping the pavement to show a third lane.

    • Eric Yotz says

      That’s right! A quick fix with just a can of paint! They’ll probably never go for it though….. And in the mean time I’ll just continue to “illegally” drive on the shoulder to take my free right turn, because if nothing else it shortens the line by 1 car for everyone else!

  4. Let me guess, the person recklessly endangering the lives of many innocent children riding bikes and families pushing strollers along that sidewalk is still out menacing and endangering others rather than being arrested, his/her license revoked, and vehicle impounded.

    • The only people recklessly endandering the lives of many innocent children are the government bureaucrats who aren’t going to do anything until *2023* about a situation that has caused multiple deaths and injuries and will continue do so for all of that time. It’s criminal negligence and the people who are responsible for not fixing this should be held criminally liable for additional injuries and deaths.

  5. Just curious, anyone here looked at WDOT spending?

  6. If highway 18 remains 1 lane, each way, from the I-90 intersection to Tiger Mountain, how would any improvements to the interchange have any significant effect on traffic?

    • Danna McCall says

      The plan WSDOT has for the interchange includes widening SR 18 in this area on the approach to the interchange.

    • “If highway 18 remains 1 lane, each way, from the I-90 intersection to Tiger Mountain, how would any improvements to the interchange have any significant effect on traffic?”
      A lot of the traffic that backs up onto I-90 is going into the Ridge, and if they had a flyover, they wouldn’t have to be stuck with all the traffic going south on 18. Obviously that won’t resolve the problems of 18s capacity, but it might at least remove the current traffic danger. Basically, that interchange causes a lot of problems as well.

  7. Michelle says

    This also does not address the danger of the westbound I90/HWY 18 off ramp backing up past Exit 27. If you are trying to merge onto the Interstate westbound from Exit 27, the cars have been backed up past the Exit for the 3rd time this week. Trying to enter a 70 mph lane from a stopped position is an adrenaline rush to say the least, and so dangerous. Couple that with limited line of sight and travelers trying to get on 18 not letting you merge in, it is beyond a nightmare. We are now going to the NB on ramp to avoid the mess.

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