TRAFFIC | Two-Year Project Begins to Change Travel over I-90 Floating Bridge, So Long Express Lanes

Snoqualmie Valley I-90 commuters, if you regularly drive to Seattle, your commute is going to change over the next couple of years – and by 2017, that option to hop on the I-90 express ways will disappear… unless you’re on a train.

This weekend WSDOT starts work on a two-year project to transition the I-90 express lanes into Sound Transit’s future light rail line that will connect the Eastside with Seattle.

To accomplish this light rail expansion, a WSDOT project will move/add HOV lanes to the outer roadways of I-90 between Bellevue and Seattle.  This keeps the number of lanes the same – just relocates the two HOV lanes from the expressway to the two outer roadways.

Currently, the reversible express ways alternate during peak commute times. In the morning, they are open westbound into Seattle and in the evening they are open eastbound. That means buses, vans and carpools are forced to use general purpose lanes part of the day, even when opposite direction, off-peak commutes can also be lengthy.

WSDOT says adding full-time HOV lanes to both directions of the outer bridge roadways “will improve on-time reliability and access for transit and HOVs on I-90” and “traffic on the outer roadway will be smoother and safer for everyone.”

To add those HOV lanes on the outer roadways, the shoulders and three lanes on each bridge will be shrunk slightly to make room for the new HOV lane. Direct access ramps for transit, carpools, and vanpools will also be added during the project.

So each outer I-90 floating bridge will increase from three to four lanes. In mid-2017, Sound Transit contractors will begin work on the I-90 express lanes to operate exclusively for light rail. The 14-mile East Link project, set to open in 2023, includes 10 new stations connecting Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake.

This weekend marks the first two years of weekend  [directional] I-90 closures between Seattle and Bellevue, with up to 30 weekend directional closures of I-90 over the next 28 months.

From Friday, February 27th at 11PM – Monday, March 2nd at 5AM, IMCO General Construction will detour eastbound I-90 traffic onto the express lanes while they upgrade operations systems in the eastbound Mount Baker and Mercer Island tunnels.

For the next two years, Snoqualmie Valley residents traveling to or from Seattle along I-90 might need to pay attention to roadway closures and increased traffic congestion.

In mid-2017, Sound Transit contractors will begin work on the I-90 express lanes to operate exclusively for light rail as part of the East Link light rail project. The 14-mile East Link project should open in 2023 and includes 10 new stations connecting Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake.

To learn more about the project visit the WSDOT I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project page.

To learn more about the Eastside expansion of light rail visit the Sound Transit Eastside Light Rail project page.

Digital animation of Sound Transit's future light rail line across I-90m floating bridge.  Photo: Sound Transit website screenshot

Digital animation of Sound Transit’s future light rail line across I-90m floating bridge. Photo: Sound Transit website screenshot

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