CHOKEPOINTS

New SR 167 ramp meter should make merge with I-405 easier and safer

Jul 27, 2021, 5:44 AM
167 ramp...
The shoulder of the SR 167/I-405 ramp will be converted to a 1,250-foot storage lane (here on the far right) to be used for peak travel times to help keep traffic moving. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT Blog)
(Photo courtesy of WSDOT Blog)

The northbound SR 167 ramp to northbound I-405 is one of the most notorious merges in our state. The ramp not only backs up I-405 drivers, but it backs up SR 167 drivers as well. I see it every morning. Commuters have dealt with it for years.

The state added a direct HOV connection there a few years ago, which is part of the entire express toll lane and HOT lane project, but nothing has been done for solo drivers — until now.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is adding ramp meters. They are located right where the SR 167 ramp joins I-405. They went active this morning, and will be active from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. each weekday, and in the afternoons when necessary.

“We don’t want drivers to hit a dead stop, and especially don’t want them to get into a situation where there is some sort of collision,” WSDOT’s Jordan Longacre said. “That’s what this is really going to improve and this is going to help, is making sure that there’s that free-flow of traffic.”

Engineers have beefed-up the shoulder, and that shoulder will now be used as an additional lane on the ramp, when the ramp meter is activated. It will give drivers more than 1,200 extra feet of space to line up.

“I think that will be maybe the biggest change for people is to suddenly realize there’s now two lanes for them to enter from 167 onto 405,” Longacre said.

Here’s what drivers will see: They will exit like normal in the single lane, but shortly after that, the shoulder lane on the right will open up. Drivers can use either lane when the ramp meter is active, and there will be a sign letting them know if they are active or not.

“It may catch them by surprise at first when they notice the cars zipping by on the righthand side, but I think once they realize that this is actually going to improve our traffic flow and there’s less backup happening on 167 as a result, they’ll see the benefit of that and realize a positive change,” Longacre said.

That shoulder lane will not be open when the ramp meters are off.

This change comes as travel on the corridor is back to pre-COVID levels.

“Traffic on 167 is exceeding those pre-pandemic averages, and on 405 we’re seeing it within a 10% range of those pre-pandemic averages,” Longacre said.

How much time did Seattle drivers save on the roads in 2020?

WSDOT said drivers usually spend three to eight minutes stuck on this ramp every morning. While those delay numbers likely won’t change with the addition of the meter, the northbound 405 lanes are expected to open up a bit, which will make merging in a little easier and much safer.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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New SR 167 ramp meter should make merge with I-405 easier and safer