BDA February Breakfast Recap: Besides traffic, what's happening to I-405?
I-405 is the spine of the Eastside and tens of thousands of users are all too familiar with its pain points. In February, WSDOT and Sound Transit project leaders shared updates on when and how this corridor will keep us moving today and in the future.
Creating Future-Proof Transportation:
First, we heard from WSDOT’s Tolling Division Director, Ed Barry. Barry explained WSDOT’s priority is to keep people moving, and that with our region’s population growth, that means coming up with not only innovative solutions, but providing funding for those projects as well. During peak periods, there is a 23% increase in use along the I-405 corridor, and according to recent survey results, drivers support the toll lanes much more now than at the time of their implementation three years ago and feel the toll lanes are a great option when time is of the essence.
Next, Kim Henry, WSDOT I-405 and SR 167 Project Director, gave the audience an overview of the I-405 Master Plan. Adopted in 2002, the multi-modal and multi-agency plan seeks to improve mobility by adding capacity and even more choices for I-405 travelers. WSDOT plans to complete the Express Toll Lane system along the entire 40 miles of the corridor, creating a seamless network for commuters. Plans for dual roundabouts and layered thoroughfares will increase the reliability of travel options and allow drivers and transit riders to avoid general purpose lane congestion. WSDOT is also working with King County Trails to make bicycle and pedestrian connections safe, easy and accessible.
Outlining the plans and progress of Sound Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit project was Bernard van de Kamp, the East Corridor Development Director. Van de Kamp shared the timeline of the bus rapid transit (BRT) investment from voter approval in 2016. The project is currently in the planning phase, with design to take place between 2020 and 2023 and construction beginning in 2023. Bus Rapid Transit on I-405 will accommodate increasing ridership, improve reliability and frequency and be less expensive than implementing light rail along I-405. The BRT will also incorporate new technologies such as improved station design for pedestrian and bicycle safety, improved fare payment systems to move people on and off buses with ease, and traffic signal technology giving buses the right of way.
Coming together for a fireside chat moderated by BDA Board Member and Transportation Committee Chair Amy Carlson, our speakers were joined by Sound Transit BRT Director Paul Cornish to answer additional questions about the influence these projects will have on Downtown Bellevue. All acknowledged the growth of downtown, and the need for partnerships to create and build designs that are ‘future-proof’ allowing for the easy implementation of upcoming and as yet unknown technologies including autonomous cars, electric buses, new station designs and toll paying systems.
A priority for both Sound Transit and WSDOT is allowing for commuter choices and creating safe and reliable multi-modal options. Data shows there is already high usage of not only the highway, but the exits and on-ramps as well. As growth and progress continue to bring business and people to Downtown Bellevue, these projects will help reallocate traffic flows and mode distribution. The BRT will shift the current 45 bus minute trip between Bellevue and Renton to a mere 25 minutes, transit transfers will be less than five minutes, and more first/last mile options will bring people to the I-405 corridor quickly and efficiently.
Thank you to our speakers and to all that were able to attend our February Breakfast meeting. For additional information on these and other projects, visit the Sound Transit and WSDOT websites, and consider joining the BDA’s Transportation Committee meetings.
View a PDF version of Sound Transit's presentation here, and WSDOT's presentations on ETL here and the I-405 Master Plan here.