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Transit shoulder driving coming to I-5 in Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace this fall

Publish Date

This news release was issued jointly by Community Transit, Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit.

WSDOT, Sound Transit and Community Transit are collaborating on the ST3 and WSDOT-funded project that will shave several minutes off the morning commute for Snohomish County bus riders

Contractor crews in Snohomish County begin work tonight to make a stretch of the southbound Interstate 5 shoulder drivable for transit buses. When open, the shoulder lane will help reduce bus travel times on weekdays when the freeway is congested.

Starting tonight, crews will close the HOV lane of southbound I-5 between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station from 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. nightly through the morning of Oct. 3. From Oct. 3 to Oct. 5, the HOV lane of the left general-purpose lanes of southbound I-5 in this same area will be closed from 8 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of October.

The project, a 1.5-mile stretch of the southbound I-5 inside shoulder lane between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station, is the first to move forward under a new bus-on-shoulder program funded by WSDOT and voter approval of the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot measure.  

In the coming weeks, crews will reinforce catch basins, restripe the shoulder lane and install detection loops in the shoulder to track how often buses use the lane for travel. Work is expected to finish in late October, with the lane open for transit use soon after. The shoulder lane will be clearly marked with "Authorized Transit Only" signs.
Community Transit and Sound Transit buses already use the shoulder lane on southbound I-405 when the morning commute is heavily congested. That operation has saved time for some bus riders, and bus routes using southbound I-5 now will have that benefit.
Buses will only drive on the southbound I-5 inside shoulder lane under limited circumstances:

  • During the weekday morning commute (Monday through Friday, 6 - 9 a.m.).
  • When traffic in the adjacent HOV lane is running substantially slower than posted speeds.
  • When a bus driver believes he or she will gain a time advantage by using the shoulder lane rather than remaining in the HOV lane.

The bus-on-shoulder program is among numerous voter-approved investments that WSDOT, Community Transit and Sound Transit are implementing as the region's population and congestion continue growing rapidly. Other projects include:

  • Community Transit's second bus rapid transit (BRT) line -- The Swift Green Line is scheduled to open in early 2019 and will run between the Boeing/Paine Field manufacturing center and the Canyon Park high-tech center. Early planning is also underway for a third line, the Swift Orange Line, to connect with Sound Transit's Link Light Rail when it gets to Lynnwood in 2024.
  • Sound Transit's system expansion – The agency is simultaneously working to extend Link light rail north, south, east and west, opening new stations every few years to form a 116-mile regional system by 2041. Sound Transit is on track to open extensions to Seattle's University District, Roosevelt and Northgate neighborhoods in 2021, with service to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond's Overlake area opening in 2023. Additional extensions to Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Downtown Redmond will open in 2024. 
  • Thereafter light rail extensions are scheduled to reach Tacoma and West Seattle in 2030; Ballard in 2035; Everett in 2036; and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041. The Tacoma Link light rail system will reach the city's Hilltop neighborhood in 2022 and Tacoma Community College in 2039.
  • Other upcoming transit expansions include the 2024 launch of bus rapid transit on I-405 and SR 522/Northeast 145th corridors, major expansions to Sounder South service that include longer platforms and trains, service extensions to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont, and improvements to parking and access at Sounder North stations by 2024.

The agencies expect buses to begin using the shoulder lanes between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Mountlake Terrace freeway station in late October or early November. The feasibility study of other possible locations for bus on shoulder will be complete in 2019.