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This unique Factoria intersection is confusing drivers

One of our 97.3 KIRO FM listeners, Nicole Starr, asked me to check out the intersection of SE Eastgate Way and Richards Road. More specifically, this is for drivers heading west on Eastgate Way and turning left onto Richards Road.

There are two left turn lanes, but drivers have an obstacle in the middle of the intersection: go to the left of the bridge supports for I-90 above, or go to the right of them. The left lane goes before. The second left turn lane goes after.

“I cannot tell you how often I practically have to swerve into a lane that I do not want to because someone on the right of me completely ignores the painted lines and crosses over,” she wrote.

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Bellevue traffic engineer Chris Long said it’s been in this configuration since Richards Road was widened in the ’90s.

“The decision was made to not rebuild the entire overpass, over Factoria Boulevard (which is also named Richards Road), and instead cut back the bridge abutment,” he said.

Listener Nicole says she has faced several near misses there. After spending a few minutes observing the intersection, I watched two drivers make that same panicked mistake in the first three light cycles.

“I can definitely see why a driver would do that,” Long said. “If they’re unfamiliar with the area, they may think, ‘What happens if I go to the other side of these columns, am I going to be stuck somewhere I don’t want to go?'”

Long said there haven’t been many crashes in that area, and the intersection is safe. I asked him if the city could paint the road a little better, maybe adding some striping, but that fix might end up being more confusing.

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“Someone in that second (turn) lane from the inside, who is going through (the intersection) to have to drive through that gore area, which can be very unnerving if you don’t know why it’s striped-out,” Long said.

What about different signs?

“The signing would not be cheap,” he said. “We’d need to get it over the lanes. There’s not a mast arm that’s convenient, and the angles of everything there make it challenging. We’d have to put up a whole new mast arm pole that’s over the lanes.”

So for listener Nicole and others who drive that spot routinely, don’t expect many changes, though the city is now looking at it. Bellevue is about to address the intersection in a different way. Long said most complaints at that spot center on the southbound drivers who are already on Richards Road and trying to access Factoria.

The far left lane becomes left turn only as you go under I-90. The right lane goes through. The two lanes on the other side of the bridge supports also go through. This also happens on a slight rise, which can catch drivers off-guard.

“We’re going to put what we call a legend or a pavement marking down that will say ‘to 36th Street’ and the other will say ‘to Factoria,'” Long said.

Work on this project should begin later this summer. Long said the city is trying to eliminate confusion and squeeze as much efficiency out of that spot as possible.

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