Sound Transit joins with partners for re-opening of Bellevue's NE 4th Street Bridge - SIX MONTHS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE

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Sound Transit and its partners deliver another project for the Eastside! Led by Bellevue fire fighting equipment and police motorcycles, a caravan of delivery trucks crossed the brand new NE 4th Street (I-405) Bridge this morning to celebrate the reopening of this key commercial and emergency access corridor to downtown Bellevue.

The renovation of the NE 4th Street Bridge is part of the final phase of the $164 million Bellevue Direct Access Project. Known locally as "Access Downtown," the project is designed to improve transit access and traffic flow along the critical I-405 corridor in Bellevue. The project is scheduled for completion in 2005. It is a partnership including Sound Transit, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the City of Bellevue, the Federal Highway Administration, King County and the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board. Sound Transit is the largest funding partner.

"This is the largest contract for Sound Transit's Regional Express Department," said Sound Transit Board Chair/King County Executive Ron Sims. "More importantly, it is a major return on the investment in Sound Transit made by taxpayers on the Eastside and a project that will benefit the entire region."

The initial part of the final phase was the demolition of the original NE 4th Bridge and reconstruction of the new bridge with an additional lane and higher clearance. The three extra feet of clearance will allow for construction of a new direct access ramp and bridge for transit and other High Occupancy Vehicles at NE 6th Street. The new NE 6th ramp and bridge will improve the speed and reliability of buses utilizing the Bellevue Transit Center.

An innovative and aggressive schedule by the contractor -- Atkinson Construction -- cut in half the time the NE 4th overpass was out of service. The original schedule called for the bridge to be out of service for one year.

The NE 4th/NE 6th portion of the Bellevue Direct Access Project will complete work begun in 2002 with improvements at the SE 8th and NE 8th interchanges. Because of innovative approaches Atkinson Construction, work on the entire project is under budget and has proceeded much more quickly than originally planned.

"This is smart, savvy government working with a motivated, creative contractor to get the job done right - and delivering something better than our customers expected," said Bellevue Mayor Connie Marshall. "The bigger news is; throughout the project Downtown Bellevue has remained accessible and open for business."

When completed, the project will include improved overpasses at NE 4th and NE 8th Streets; a much more efficient interchange at SE 8th Street; and, a new direct access ramp for transit, car and van pools at NE 6th Street. The improvements in all three phases also allow for future widening of I-405.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.