The WSDOT recently came out with the following “Driver Alert”
Eastbound I-90 will be down to one lane and detoured to the express lanes from 11 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 23 to 5 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 26. There are three more weekend-long closures scheduled in 2015.
It included the following explanation
I-90 includes two reversible express lanes between Seattle and Bellevue for buses, carpools and vanpools. In the morning, traffic in the express lanes are westbound; in the evening they go eastbound. Buses and high-occupancy vehicles traveling opposite the express lanes must use the outer roadway. With no HOV lanes in outer roadway at the start of this project, buses and carpools experienced routine, rush-hour delays, undermining the benefits of ride sharing.
They anticipate this Stage 3 construction, which began in January 2015 and includes upgrading I-90 tunnels fire and life safety systems in Seattle and Mercer Island, will be completed in mid 2017 when the I-90 Bridge center roadway will be closed to begin light rail installation.
What’s “interesting” is the fact that the HOV lanes could have been added to the outer roadways 15 years ago. They have been part of any cross-lake transportation improvement since the mid 1990’s. The cost would have been minimal and the benefits immediate. The added lanes would have been particularly useful in accommodating those recently opting for I-90 to avoid 520 tolls.
It may be pure “coincidence” the added lanes aren’t scheduled to open until the center roadway is closed for light rail. The delay has not only forced cross-lake commuters to endure years of increased congestion it has also prevented two potential problems for East Link.
The first is the added outer roadway HOV lanes would make the center roadway “available” for two-way bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes. BRT would have 10 times light rail capacity, 10 years sooner, at 1/10th the cost of East Link. They could provide direct access to transit for I-90 commuters from existing and added P&Rs throughout east side reducing congestion for everyone. They would have ended East Link.
The second is the WSDOT had told a judge in the Freeman case the added HOV lanes would allow the outer roadway to accommodate all the cross-lake vehicles. He allowed East Link to proceed based on that claim. Adding the outer roadway lanes would have allowed the center roadway to be closed temporarily to verify their claim. The WSDOT knew, or should have known, a 2004 FHWA document concluded the existing center roadway lanes were needed for vehicles even with the added outer roadway lanes. Delaying the lanes allows ST to avoid the "possibility" the demonstration would show the need to maintain center roadway lanes for vehicles and stop East Link.
I’ll leave it to viewers to make their own conclusions about “coincidence”.