Upcoming I-90 Lane Closures: Operating Express Lanes ONLY Westbound Won’t Ease Traffic Woes

Snoqualmie Valley drivers have just two days left to prepare for a BIG Westbound I-90 closure near Bellevue Way that is predicted to cause multiple mile backups – and plenty of headaches for Eastside drivers.

Starting Friday, July 18, 2014, at 9:30PM, westbound I-90 will be down to just ONE lane of traffic for a week straight, 24 hours a day, as WSDOT crews replace aging expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge.

Photo: WSDOT Blog

Will Express Lanes Stay Open Only Westbound During the Work?

Washington State DOT officials say one of the most common questions they’ve received regarding the upcoming closure is, “Will the I-90 express lanes operate only westbound during the lane closures?”

Answer? NOPE. Why?  Because WSDOT says it really wouldn’t help and would cause serious problems for eastbound I-90 drivers.

From the WSDOT Blog, here’s the full explanation on why the express lanes won’t run only westbound during the closure:

1)  The I-90 lane closures end well before the express lanes start. It won’t help traffic bypass the closure or speed things up through the work zone. At the express lanes entrance, there will be three lanes open on the mainline and two others in the express lanes with traffic traveling near the speed limit, serving the morning commute as it normally does.

2)  Most of those people going westbound will at some point have to return eastbound. Knowing this, WSDOT operates the express lanes eastbound from 2PM until 5AM the following morning. If WSDOT kept the express lanes westbound during the afternoon commute, Seattle-area traffic – from transit, to carpoolers to single-occupancy vehicles – would grind to a halt, causing serious backups both directions of I-5, spilling onto city streets, jamming Rainier Avenue and making it very difficult to get out of downtown Seattle. With lower volumes of traffic westbound in the afternoon, keeping the express lanes that direction all day would hurt eastbound traffic significantly without improving westbound.


  • 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.

WSDOT does say they’re flexible, though, and will closely monitor traffic during the closure. If they see traffic flowing in such a way that changing the express lane schedule might help, without causing a lot of damage to the eastbound commute, they will make adjustments the following day.  They say it’s unlikely this will happen during peak commute hours, though.

Big Weekend Events in Seattle

Extra traffic heading into Seattle for some big weekend events is expected to be impacted by the East Channel Bridge lane closures. Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead, allowing for extra time.

Express Lane Weekend Schedule Changes for July 19th – July 20th

  • Saturday, July 19th, 1PM Sounders game: Westbound open from 7AM – 2:30PM and switching to Eastbound by 3:30PM
  • Sunday, July 20th: Express lanes CLOSED from 5AM – 11AM for the Seafair Triathlon.
  • Sunday July 20th:  Westbound open 11AM – 2PM Monday, July 21st, helping traffic headed to the Bite of Seattle.

For more details visit the I-90 WB East Channel Bridge Expansion Joint Repair Information page.



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