Drivers say that despite the new State Route 522 interchange in Bothell, traffic is actually getting worse in that area.
The Washington State Department of Transportation created the new braided ramp at 160th and SR 522 when tolling began to eliminate the weaving and late lane-changing from drivers trying to access 522 from northbound I-405. Since it opened, however, drivers have complained that it is much more congested now than it ever was before.
KIRO driver Jeff Todhunter may have figured out the reason.
Jeff sees a lot of drivers exiting at 160th, then going straight through the light and back onto the ramp to 522. They basically bypass the stopped traffic in the exit lane to 522. That creates more merging on that braided ramp, making back-ups even worse.
I asked WSDOT project director Kim Henry about it. He is in charge of the entire I-405 / SR 167 corridor. Why does the state allow traffic to go straight through at the end of the on-ramp?
“Sometimes people, inadvertently, take the wrong exit or other things, particularly if they are not familiar with the area, and then they have to loop through some neighborhoods somewhere and come back,” he explained. “We like to allow straight-through movements when we can.”
It’s become obvious to Henry that this straight-through movement is being abused by plenty of drivers, especially during the peak afternoon commute.
“We have a situation here where we’re getting more through movements than we’d like to see,” Henry said. “People are looking for opportunities to bypass some of the ramp traffic there.”
It is technically legal, but this is not how the ramp was designed to work. Henry said traffic engineers are looking for what they can do to stop this behavior. There are two options on the table. The first, banning the straight-through maneuver outright and adding new signs. The second, add ramp meters to the on-ramp from 160th.
“If people have to wait through the ramp meter, that will certainly discourage them from taking that particular direction,” Henry said.