Work expands HOV access

New I-90 HOV lane under construction leads to North Mercer lot

J. Jacob Edel
Mercer Island Reporter

Islanders will lose a lane in the center lanes of I-90 for the next four to five months and can expect other nighttime lane closures this week as crews continue to construct a new westbound HOV lane. Beyond additional access to Mercer Island, the lanes will connect the center lanes to the newly expanded North Mercer Park and Ride. However, Sound transit does not believe the new ramp will encourage Eastside commuters to park their cars at the Mercer Island lot.

According to Sound Transit spokesperson Linda Robson, both Sound Transit and King County Metro have opened new or expanded park-and-rides east of Mercer Island.

“Relatively few non-Islanders are expected to use the new MI garage,” she said. “That’s not really at the heart of the project impacts. We expect that most Islanders will access the new garage via Island Crest Way and other arterial streets.” Sound Transit estimates show that HOV volume on I-90 during morning peak hours will increase by 42 percent by 2025. In 2003, there were 43 regular buses using the corridor, and Sound Transit predicts there will be 61 by 2025.

In addition to the new Island park-and-ride, which contains 447 parking spots, Sound Transit and the DOT have constructed the 1,000-stall parking structure and HOV queue-jump lanes in the Issaquah Highlands, and direct access ramps and a parking garage at Eastgate. Robson also said the HOV lanes on SR 900 in Issaquah have improved access to the Issaquah transit center.

According to the Washington Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Web site, the northern-most lane of the I-90 center roadway will be closed from Bellevue Way to 80th Avenue S.E. until July to provide crews with a safe work zone as they re-stripe the East Channel Bridge.

Tonight and tomorrow night, crews will close the express lane ramp on westbound I-90 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. to re-stripe the ramp if the weath er holds.

There will also be nighttime closures of up to two lanes on westbound I-90 from the East Channel Bridge to 76th Avenue S.E. The first lane will close at 9 p.m., and the second lane will close at 11 p.m. Crews plan to have the first lane reopen to traffic by 4 a.m. and all lanes reopened by 5 a.m. This work is also weather-dependent.

Work on the new HOV lane and a direct-access off-ramp at 80th Avenue S.E. began about a year ago. This first stage of widening I-90 was bidded to the Max J. Kuney Company of Spokane for $22.5 million.

“We have a lot going on in the corridor, and while there may be a little pain during these lane closures and construction, everyone should see some big gains throughout the I-90 corridor,” Robson said.

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