New lanes finally coming to I-90 east of Bellevue
The state keeps looking for ways to eek out more room on our existing freeways. The latest move is to add shoulder driving on I-90 between Bellevue and Issaquah.
Shoulder driving during the afternoon commute has helped the northbound I-405 drive between Bothell and Lynnwood. The state is also adding it to I-5 northbound between Everett and Marysville.
The plan has prompted a two-year construction project to add an auxiliary lane between 150th in Eastgate and Issaquah. Drivers have been asking me about the lane shifts on that stretch of I-90 for a few days.
The lanes have been moved to the right, so workers can install jersey barriers near the median. That slight lane shift will last for a few months before drivers will be shifted slightly to the left for the duration of the work.
The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Nicole Daniels said they are adding an auxiliary lane in each direction to allow better merging, which should cut back on the congestion.
“Eastbound will be 150th to West Lake Sammamish Parkway,” she said. “The westbound direction will be just after SR 900, after the on-ramp, to 150th.”
It will connect the two ramps, using the space on the right shoulder. But why not go all the way to SR 900 in the eastbound direction?
“Originally this project was going to be a peak-use shoulder lane, but we found through traffic studies that was just moving the bottleneck,” Daniels said. “By having the auxiliary lanes, which are open 24/7, it will really help improve the consistency and reliability through the area.”
It would also be very tough to use that shoulder through West Lake Sammamish Parkway because of the current design of the interchange.
These new lanes will not be open until the fall of 2021. So why does it take two years to beef up the shoulder?
“They have to reinforce the catch basins and they have to do drainage work,” Daniels said. “Paving work. Paving window. Striping window. You can’t do that in the rain. That’s all weather dependent. We start getting into fall and winter, when it starts raining and getting cold, and we have to push that work to the spring.”
Drivers should also expect some occasional lane and ramp closures during the project. There will be overnight work, as well.