I-985: A mess for westbound SR 520

August 7, 2008 by
Filed under: Noteworthy Columns 

The Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly nails one of the many bad, unintended consequences of I-985:

Traveling Route 520 at 6:20 Friday, I found stop-and-go traffic from 84th Avenue Northeast to the bridge. The state Transportation Department’s rush-hour map shows even greater congestion much of the time. 

By throwing open the express lanes, I-985 would expand stop-and-go traffic from two lanes to three and defeat the whole purpose of getting people into buses and van pools.

But it may be even worse than Connelly thinks. Merging creates congestion. Right now, the narrowing of SR-520 westbound from 3 lanes to 2, right before the floating bridge, isn’t a major problem — but only because it’s an HOV-3 lane. There are few enough vehicles that the merge doesn’t gum up traffic. But I-985 would turn the 3rd lane into an HOV-2 lane during rush hour, and a general purpuose lane the rest of the time. Adding more vehicles to the merging lane will absolutely hammer westbound traffic — leading to even longer backups to the 520 bridge, and not just at rush hour.


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