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New ramps at North Mercer

Islanders can expect more construction near the North Mercer Park and Ride now that Sound Transit is scheduled to begin building direct access on/off-ramps this week.

Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) will also add new westbound carpool lanes by re-striping the Eastside span of I-90 later in the year.

While some preliminary construction work began this week, a kick-off event for the three-phase project is scheduled for Monday, April 9 in Bellevue at 11 a.m. at Enatai Beach Park, which is located at 3519 108th Ave. S.E.

According to Sound Transit officials, the new direct access off-ramp at 80th Avenue S.E. and on-ramp at 77th Avenue S.E. will improve westbound traffic for buses, carpools and vanpools with better access to the Island and the park and ride garage currently under construction. Bruce Gray, a spokesperson for Sound Transit, said the new HOV lane in the westbound roadway between Bellevue Way and 80th Avenue will be the final portion of the project. Construction of the direct access ramps is expected to last a year, with the eastbound carpool lanes taking an additional six months after that.

There will also be modifications made to the Bellevue Way HOV access ramp and the northbound I-405 to westbound I-90 connection during that time.

Sound Transit and the DOT are constructing the direct access ramps so buses, carpools and vanpools can go from the highway to the park and ride station back to the highway without having to merge across the three other lanes. Other direct access ramps already completed on the East side are at the Bellevue Transit Center along I-405 and at the Eastgate Park and Ride along I-90.

Sound Transit and the DOT plan to start the second phase of the project in 2009, which will build another direct access ramp around 80th Avenue S.E. for eastbound traffic. This second phase will also install a carpool lane in the eastbound lanes of I-90 between 80th and Bellevue Way.

Funding for these first two phases has already been approved, however, Sound Transit has not appropriated the funds for the third phase, which will add HOV lanes on the westside and floating portions of the highway and more direct access ramps in Seattle. Phases one and two will cost about $40.3 million, according to Sound Transit. For all three phases, the DOT estimates it will cost a total of $147.8 million and the DOT Web site states an additional $56 million is needed to complete phase three funding.

There is also a scheduled series of workshops seeking public involvement in designing and reviewing the options for light rail over Lake Washington, from Seattle to Mercer Island and into Bellevue. One of the five workshops will take place on Mercer Island Wednesday, April 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Community Center at Mercer View. Please RSVP by calling (206)370-5516 or e-mailing eastlink@soundtransit.org.

On the Web www.wsdot.wa. gov/projects/I90/twowaytransit www.soundtransit.org/

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