‘Decades of headaches’ end: Montlake turn lanes onto SR-520 expected to ease congestion

Mar 25, 2024, 1:32 PM | Updated: 4:55 pm

Montlake turn lanes...

First cars pass through Montlake turn lanes on Monday. (Photo: Sam Campbell)

(Photo: Sam Campbell)

The long-awaited Montlake turn lanes were opened on Monday from the Boulevard to State Route (SR) 520, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said.

Without the dedicated turn lanes, drivers headed north on Montlake Boulevard toward SR 520, had to drive past the freeway entrance and make a U-turn onto Montlake Boulevard south to access the westbound on-ramp.

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“It’s kind of a circuitous U-turn that drivers would take, so this will be a more direct route for those coming from Capitol Hill to go to westbound 520,” said WSDOT spokesperson Steve Peer. “It’s also going to help drivers that are going northbound on Montlake that want to go through all the way to the University of Washington.”

They won’t have those cars that are wanting to go a different direction, clogging up their area,” he continued.

Construction caused tie-ups at one of the busiest interchanges in Seattle

The U-turn workaround caused long backups on Montlake, with lines of drivers headed elsewhere stuck waiting behind those just trying to get onto the freeway. Neighbors have grown frustrated at growing congestion and delays to the morning commute.

And it’s been like this for 50 years. The decades of headaches should end Monday, Peer told KIRO Newsradio. Behind him, some of Monday morning’s first drivers stuck to their U-turn route and ignored the new turn lanes.

“People have been driving — generations have been driving through this area, and they’re used to going a certain way,” he said. “Today is a kind of a new day, so they have to remember: There’s a new way to go.”

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Monday also served as a significant benchmark in several years of construction of SR 520 in Montlake.

More roadwork is ongoing, including the construction of direct access lanes on SR 520 for HOV and buses. The construction and Monday’s opening of the new turn lanes are part of WSDOT’s SR 520 Montlake Project, which Peer estimated should conclude in August.

Contributing: Frank Sumrall, MyNorthwest.

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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‘Decades of headaches’ end: Montlake turn lanes onto SR-520 expected to ease congestion