Changes ahead for I-90 Express Lanes

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80th Avenue ramp closure on Mercer Island next week signals last step to 24/7 HOV lanes in both directions of I-90

The Interstate 90 Express Lanes access ramp at 80th Avenue Southeast will close for up to four weeks beginning Monday, Jan. 23, before reopening to the outer roadway of eastbound I-90.

Closing the ramp on Mercer Island will affect bus riders, carpoolers, and vanpoolers. It will allow the Washington State Department of Transportation to complete the second stage of a project that adds full-time high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in both directions on I-90's outer roadways between Seattle and Bellevue.

As westbound buses, carpools and vanpools approach the entrance to the I-90 Express Lanes to Seattle in the morning, they'll notice a new overhead sign just before they cross the East Channel Bridge - "No access to Mercer Island."

The message means HOV commuters going to Mercer Island from points east will need to avoid the express lanes and use I-90's westbound outer roadway, which already offers direct access to the island's exits for transit and carpools. Drivers who enter the express lanes in Bellevue will not be able to exit until they reach Seattle.

The new sign is there to stay. When the work is done in the latter half of February, the ramp will no longer be reversible. It will be a full-time on-ramp with direct access to the new HOV lane on eastbound I-90.

Until the ramp work is complete, afternoon and evening carpools, vanpools and buses - King County Metro Transit routes 211 and 216, and Sound Transit ST Express routes 550 and 554 - that normally use the 80th Avenue Southeast ramp to access the express lanes eastbound will need to switch to the general-purpose eastbound I-90 on-ramp at Island Crest Way. Commuters using the Island Crest Way access ramp should allow extra travel time to navigate through general-purpose traffic.

The ramp closure will not affect traffic bypassing Mercer Island in the I-90 Express Lanes or in either direction of the outer roadways.

Providing full-time HOV lanes in both directions is an essential element of the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project, a joint effort by Sound Transit and WSDOT. This ramp work is the final part of Stage 2 of the three-stage project. Stage 3 is in design and scheduled to begin construction in 2013. It will add an outer-roadway HOV lane in each direction from Mercer Island to Seattle.

When the entire $187 million project is complete, Sound Transit will start constructing the East Link light rail line between Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. WSDOT's project will enable light rail to significantly increase the carrying capacity on the I-90 bridge without reducing the number of general purpose or HOV lanes.

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