ST, WSDOT launch construction of new HOV lane on I-90

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Latest stage of Lake Washington HOV expansion supports 2013 launch of light rail construction

Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation today broke ground on the next stage of adding new HOV lanes in both directions across Lake Washington on Interstate 90 to prepare for East Link light rail service between Seattle and the Eastside.

"Each step of this work saves time for commuters," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. "By adding all-day HOV lanes in both directions and finally light rail, we're meeting the regional demand for fast, reliable options for moving people on our busiest corridors."

The new HOV lanes and HOV direct access ramps will help improve the speed, safety, and reliability of buses that use I-90, and will help meet the growing demand of transit users on both sides of Lake Washington. Currently, buses and carpools traveling I-90 in the off-peak direction often are stuck in traffic because the reversible center express lanes operate only in the peak direction (westbound in the morning and eastbound at night). The new HOV lanes between Seattle and Bellevue will offer 24-hour HOV capacity both eastbound and westbound. HOV direct access on- and off-ramps will enable buses and carpools to access the HOV lanes without crossing other lanes of traffic.

The second stage of the project now getting underway will add a new eastbound HOV lane between Mercer Island and Bellevue. The first stage of the project opened in 2008 with new westbound HOV lane between Bellevue Way and 80th Avenue Southeast on Mercer Island and improved HOV access in Mercer Island and Bellevue. The third and final stage will add HOV lanes to both directions of I-90 between Mercer Island and Seattle, clearing the way for light rail to be constructed in the center lanes.

"The transportation system works best when people have transportation choices, when we strategically add capacity, and when we find ways to operate the overall system more efficiently," said Paula Hammond, Washington State Secretary of Transportation. "This project on I-90 accomplishes all three."

The total cost of the HOV lane project for all stages is $187.6 million. This stage of the project is scheduled to be complete by late 2012 and the final stage completed by 2014.

"With this work, we're making important investments - creating good jobs now and regional mobility for a growing economy," said Sound Transit Board member and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Light rail is a huge step toward our ultimate goal of connecting our region's most important economic centers with fast, reliable service."

The East Link light rail line is scheduled to begin construction in late 2013/early 2014 and open for service between Seattle, Mercer Island and Bellevue in 2020 and to Overlake in 2021.

"The work we begin today and the East Link light rail line are vital connections for Bellevue and the Eastside," said Sound Transit Board member and Bellevue City Council member Claudia Balducci.

"With explosive growth projected for downtown Bellevue over the next ten years we have to build faster connections for our commuters."

For more information about the I-90 Two-Way Transit & HOV Operations project

For more information on East Link light rail