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Wilburton tunnel teardown will slow I-405 traffic

Washington State Department of Transportation Construction Engineering Manager Brian Nielson speaks to the media in front of the Wilburton Tunnel on I-405 just before the I-90 interchange in Bellevue on July 21.  - Fumiko Yarita/Bellevue Reporter
Washington State Department of Transportation Construction Engineering Manager Brian Nielson speaks to the media in front of the Wilburton Tunnel on I-405 just before the I-90 interchange in Bellevue on July 21.
— image credit: Fumiko Yarita/Bellevue Reporter

Southbound lanes on Interstate 405 from S.E. 8th Street in Bellevue to Interstate 90 will be completely closed for three weekends in August as construction crews remove the Wilburton Tunnel.

The section of I-405 represents one of the region’s largest traffic chokepoints, and the tunnel removal will make room for more southbound I-405 lanes and an additional HOV lane in south Bellevue.

The southbound lanes will close:

• 11 p.m., Friday, Aug. 8 to 5 a.m., Monday, Aug. 11

• 11 p.m., Friday, Aug. 15 to 5 a.m., Monday, Aug. 18

• 11 p.m., Friday, Aug. 22 to 5 a.m., Monday, Aug. 25

According to Ronald Kessack, the right-of-way manager with the Bellevue Transportation Department, demolition of the tunnel will be cleaned up on each Monday following the weekend construction; however, he anticipates a little friction caused by distracted commuters looking at what he referred to as “the new factor.”

“Things are going to look a little bit different. One thing we’ve learned [from] past projects is that when people drive by and realize something’s changed, they tend to slow down to get a good look,” he said.

State officials predict that the work will increase traffic on all regional freeways between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. and caution commuters to expect delays and plan their trips accordingly.

“Our traffic experts predict back-ups could reach up to 13 miles if people don’t alter their weekend travel plans,” said I-405 Deputy Project Director Stacy Trussler. “Even with reduced travel, drivers should give themselves two extra hours to get around the region.”

Trussler added another bit of advice: take a “staycation,” that is, stay home.

“If you need to travel, do it early or late in the day, and leave plenty of time,” Trussler said.

WSDOT has developed a new Web resource to help drivers plan their trips and avoid backups during closures. Go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/i405/112thAvetoSE8th/wilburton.htm. On the Web page, commuters will find links to up-to-the-minute traffic conditions, recommended detours and transportation tips.

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