Sound Transit joins with partners to break ground for final phase of Bellevue Direct Access Project

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With heavy equipment waiting to begin the job, federal, state and local officials gathered this morning on the NE 4th Street (I-405) overpass to break ground for 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 single largest funding partner at $108 million. Guy F. Atkinson Construction bid this phase of the project at $44.2 million, more than $9 million below the engineer's estimate.

"This is the single 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 will involve demolition of the existing NE 4th overpass and reconstruction of a new overpass with an additional lane and higher clearance. The three extra feet of clearance will allow for construction of a new direct access ramp and overpass for transit and other High Occupancy Vehicles at NE 6th Street. The new NE 6th ramp and overpass will improve the speed and reliability of buses utilizing the Bellevue Transit Center.

An innovative and aggressive schedule by the contractor cuts in half the time the NE 4th overpass will be out-of-service, from one year to six months.

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 by the construction contractor, 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.