I-405/SR 167 Corridor Executive Advisory group discusses legislative session, other projects at recent meeting

The group met at the Bellevue Library on Sept. 10.

An advisory group discussed Interstate 405 issues last week.

The Interstate 405/state Route 167 Corridor Executive Advisory Group met last week (Sept. 10) at the Bellevue Library. The meeting circled around takeaways from the 2019 Washington state legislative session and next steps being considered for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) I-405/SR 167 corridor. Time was also allotted for updates on other relevant projects and multimodal partnerships.

Legislative session takeaways

Discussed outcomes from the legislative session included updated high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane penalties and the status of a toll authorization bill.

ESSB 5695, a new HOV penalties bill, was signed by Gov. Jay Inslee on May 21. Whereas previous fines for violating HOV lane requirements was $136, the bill ups the fine to $186, with a higher fee of $336 for any subsequent penalties. If a driver were to use a dummy or another human-resembling item to use the lane, the fine would come to an additional $200.

Sums accrued go to two accounts: one for traffic safety and congestion, the other for motor vehicles. Twenty-five (25) percent of funds are transferred to the safety and congestion account, with the remaining 75 going toward the motor-vehicle account.

Also discussed at the legislative session was ESSB 5825, a toll authorization bill affecting SR 167, state Route 509 and I-405. Effective beginning on June 30, the bill provides permanent toll authorization not just for the three impacted areas but also for the Gateway facility.

The SR 167 master plan, which the Legislature identified $3 million to update this year, was another topic discussed. Because the SR 167 master plan is slated for completion on June 30, 2021, of priority, according to the presentation, is conducting a study that analyzes its current and future conditions, as well as the incorporation of information brought to WSDOT’s attention through public engagement. The study will additionally identify transportation needs over incremental periods and strategies to bring them to fruition.

“Practical solutions — that’s where we’re coming from,” Robin Mayhew, WSDOT’s director of management of mobility, said.

In September, WSDOT intends to establish three items to continue the development of the master plan. In addition to refining its approach to public engagement, it will be drafting the scope of work and assigning technical and policy committees. Quarterly technical meetings are scheduled to begin in October, with bimonthly policy meetings commencing in November.

“We will be working very closely with all the WSDOT offices … it’s very important that we emphasize relationships,” Mayhew said.

I-405/SR-167 corridor updates

The advisory group was also updated on the status of projects in the I-405/SR 167 corridor, with a particular emphasis on the planned I-405 Renton to Bellevue widening and an express toll lanes project. Due to congestion, WSDOT acknowledges that those traveling between these cities are currently experiencing “one of the state’s worst commutes.”

The in-the-works project entails improvements to transportation by creating a two-lane express toll lane system between SR 167 in Renton and Northeast 6th Street in Bellevue, resulting in a new lane in each direction. The new lane will be combined with the existing toll lane.

By connecting to the already-in-place express toll lane system between Lynnwood and Bellevue in addition to the SR 167 HOV lanes via the 1-405/SR 167 Interchange Direct Connector, a 40-mile system of express toll lanes will result from the project. It will also support the Sound Transit 3 package, which has a new I-405 Bus Rapid Transit Line between Tukwila and Lynnwood as one of its several components.

Flatiron West, Inc., a construction engineering company, submitted the apparent best value proposal of about $709,975,000, which covers construction and design. That followed WSDOT’s announcement of the award of the project’s design-build contract on Aug. 21.

“It’s really the most significant piece,” Lisa Hodgson, WSDOT’s I-405/SR 167 deputy program administrator, said of the improvements, which are scheduled to start affecting traffic in 2024.

I-405 BRT update

Project director of the Bus Rapid Transit program Paul Cornish spoke on behalf of Sound Transit at the Sept. 10 meeting. He updated the advisory group on the status of the I-405 BRT, which, through buses running about every 10 minutes, connects Lynnwood to Burien, with a midpoint in Bellevue. The project will see the inclusion of a new South Renton transit center and 11 other BRT stations.

In late March, Sound Transit hosted a workshop to identify solutions both in the long-term and in the interim period for BRT as well as connect with stakeholders, refining the objectives of the project.

Cornish said that following the meeting, moving BRT stations from outside ramps to inside stations to leverage statement investment and Express Toll Lanes is being considered, and that, for the refined project, funding from unneeded project components like Canyon Park’s north-shoulder bus and I-405 outside ramp improvements be reprogrammed to areas of greater interest.

Cornish said Sound Transit is starting the developmental process for the conceptual engineering of the project. Once that’s completed, the organization will conduct an environmental review and pare down a cost estimate incorporating every component included in the I-405 BRT project.

Once completed, the I-405 project could improve travel times from Lynnwood to Bellevue. As it currently stands, it would take a customer riding the ST express about 57 minutes to and from the selected cities. But if a traveler were to utilize the improvements made by the proposed refined project, it would take between 46 and 51 minutes, or, with the express toll lanes, 33 and 38 minutes.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us … looking forward to delivering,” Roger Millar, the secretary of transportation, said at the end of the meeting.

For more information about the I-405/SR 167 Executive Advisory Group, go online to its website (https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/EastsideCorridor/EAG2013.htm).