City Council members joined regional leaders today in breaking ground on the next stage of a project to add lanes for high-occupancy vehicles and light rail to Interstate 90.
The project, by Sound Transit and the state Department of Transportation, in partnership with the City of Bellevue, will add new HOV lanes in both directions across Lake Washington on I-90. East Link light rail service will run from Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond.
"The work we begin today and the East Link light rail line are vital connections for Bellevue and the Eastside," said Councilwoman Claudia Balducci, who also serves on the Sound Transit Board of Directors. "With explosive growth projected for downtown Bellevue over the next 10 years, we have to build faster connections for our commuters." Councilman John Chelminiak joined Balducci at the groundbreaking.
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 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.
Construction on East Link is scheduled to begin in late 2013 or early 2014 and open for service between Seattle, Mercer Island and Bellevue in 2020.
For more information about the I-90 Two-Way Transit & HOV Operations project visit
http://www.soundtransit.org/I90Stage2 or http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/TwoWayTransit. For more information on East Link light rail, visit http://www.soundtransit.org/Eastlink. For information on light rail and Bellevue, visit http://www.bellevuewa.gov/light-rail.htm.
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