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Worth the wait on I-405’s Coal Creek Parkway?

The thought is that a long-awaited onramp meter on I-405 will improve the flow of traffic. (Chris Sullivan)

Remember the new ramp meter installed on the Coal Creek Parkway ramp to I-405 last year? After what seems like a lifetime, the new ramp will finally be operational tomorrow.

KIRO Radio listener Kelly, a truck driver who regularly drives I-405, asked why there wasn’t a meter at this ramp. He believes it’s a major contributor to the congestion near I-90.

When I asked the Washington State Department of Transportation about it last year, the answer was simple. There wasn’t enough space because of a Metro bus stop on the ramp. A ramp meter was installed last spring when the stop was moved to a nearby park-and-ride.

Related: State hastens efforts to relieve I-405 traffic congestion

The meter was only supposed to take a few months to turn on, but managing the signals at that intersection turned out to be a little more complicated. Signal timing and modification was needed, with the help of the City of Bellevue, before it could go active. Engineers didn’t want to create unintended backups, but all of that has finally been worked out. The ramp meter goes active on Wednesday.

It will be a dual ramp meter, so both lanes of traffic will have to stop. The meter will only activate if speeds on southbound I-405 drop below 60 mph, which is basically every afternoon.

The biggest changes drivers will notice will be on the approaches to the ramp, especially for drivers who get there via 118th Avenue SE out of Bellevue.

“That right turn used to be a free-flowing right turn,” Justin Fujioka with the Washington State Department of Transportation said. “It was basically un-signaled. It is now going to be signaled. You will not be able to make that right turn on red.”

Drivers headed west on Coal Creek Parkway will also notice a big change.

“That left turn sequence light will be given priority,” Fujioka said. “Every other green light will be that left turn signal, and that’s to ensure that we don’t get a backlog on that left turn lane.”

We’ll have to see if the wait was worth it for this ramp meter and if it will really ease the daily congestion pulling away from I-90 on I-405.

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