After some 18 months of commute backups, traffic flaggers, lane closures and changing lane directions, motorists are finding the construction project to improve traffic flow at the NE 116th/Interstate 405 interchange in Kirkland almost complete.
The $17-million reconstruction of the interchange, designed to reduce rush-hour bottlenecks, began in the spring of 2011. Now all the lanes are open, including new ones to increase traffic capacity, and two new traffic signals were turned on late last week, replacing three. The project awaits only lane striping and minor finishing touches.
But drivers are finding the new lane configurations confusing, and the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is asking motorist to use caution as they adjust to the new “Single Point Urban Interchange.”
“It will improve as drivers get used to the new interchange,” said Steve Peer, a WSDOT spokesman. “It’ll get better and better. It’s been tough because we’ve had changing lane configurations.”
Many motorists are slowing down as they approach the interchange, trying to figure out which lane to get into depending on the direction they are headed. Drivers coming off northbound I-405 also have more lane options than before.
Peer said traffic flow will improve as lane striping is completed and drivers learn lane configurations.
“We’re putting the final striping on and that will make it a lot more evident on where to go,” he said. “I think it will be pretty intuitive. It’s the holidays now, so really after the first of the year when the full commute begins again and people adjust, it’s going to make for a lot less congestion.”
For years, rush hour traffic has been beyond capacity of the old interchange, typically causing severe backups on NE 116th on either side of the I-405 each weekday morning and evening. The new interchange not only increases traffic capacity, but it also adds sidewalks and bike lanes
Find out more on the WSDOT blog here, and also please see the attached You Tube video about the project.
Have you driven through the new interchange? What do you think? Please tell us in the comments box below!