Bellevue's biggest traffic crunch of the summer starts this weekend with the full closure of southbound Interstate 405. It's the first of three straight weekends the highway will be closed to remove the Wilburton Tunnel.
Crews working for the state Department of Transportation will close southbound I-405, from Southeast Eighth Street to Interstate 90, for 54 hours, from 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, on the weekends of Aug. 8-11, Aug. 15-18 and Aug. 22-25. The Wilburton Tunnel, built in 1972, is located about 1.5 miles south of downtown Bellevue.
Weekend travel on all regional freeways is also expected to be worse than normal, especially between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Drivers are urged to stay close to home. If longer trips are required, plan ahead, be patient, and leave plenty of time to reach your destination, preferably early or late in the day when traffic volume is lighter.
Bellevue, of course, will be open for business and the best way for drivers to get there from the north will be to stay off highways. Instead, travel south on arterials such as Bellevue Way Northeast, 112th Avenue Northeast, 116th Avenue Northeast, 120th Avenue Northeast, 124th Avenue Northeast, 140th Avenue Northeast, 148th Avenue Northeast or Bellevue-Redmond Road.
Removal of the Wilburton Tunnel is part of WSDOT's I-405 South Bellevue Widening Project, designed to help relieve congestion on one of the region's busiest stretches of highway. The tunnel must be removed to make room for two new lanes of roadway. As always, safety in the project work zone will be a top priority: Remember to Give ‘em a Brake!
With an average of 94,000 vehicles passing through the Wilburton Tunnel on a typical summer Saturday, and about 77,600 trips on Sundays, traffic analysts say that a significant number of motorists must change their travel plans during the closures in order to avoid big jam-ups.
Predictions indicate that in a worst-case scenario, backups on southbound I-405 could extend north to the I-5 interchange in Lynnwood -- a 13-mile back-up. It could take more than three hours to reach Southeast Eighth Street on southbound I-405, and drivers could face a 2.5-hour slog from southbound I-405 to westbound State Route 520.
Traffic managers suggest the following tips to help ease travel during the closures:
- Instead of driving alone, take a bus, carpool or ride a bike.
- If you must travel, plan ahead, use recommended detours and expect delays.
- Avoid the interchange at SR 520 and I-405.
- Travelers to Bellevue should take major local streets; avoid the freeways. From downtown Bellevue, headed south, take major local roads to I-90.
- For regional trips, drivers from the north (north Kirkland, Lynnwood and points north) should take SR 522 or I-5. Drivers from south Kirkland should take south I-405 to SR 520 to I-5 south. Drivers traveling north on I-405 should use westbound I-90 to get to Seattle instead of SR 520. Drivers from the east should take West Lake Sammamish Parkway or 148th Avenue Southeast to I-90.
The following ramps leading to I-405 will be closed during the tunnel's removal, from 11 p.m. Fridays to 5 a.m. Mondays: eastbound SR 520 to southbound I-405, Northeast Eighth Street to southbound I-405, Northeast Sixth Street to southbound I-405, Northeast Fourth Street to southbound I-405, and Southeast Eighth Street to southbound I-405.
Want to help ease traffic congestion and reduce air pollution? Check out Choose Your Way Bellevue, a one-stop resource that provides tips on how to keep moving during roadway construction projects and provides alternatives to driving alone.
Log on to view traffic conditions, receive free trip planning assistance and learn about options such as carpooling, vanpooling, walking and bicycling. In addition, Choose Your Way includes special programs for commuters, residents and employers.
For more information about the closures:
If you have more questions about the project, contact WSDOT's Steve Peer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-456-8624.
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