Street Smarts reader Dave Heinke, of Lake Stevens, writes: “I’m a daily driver on I-405 between Everett and Bellevue. The northbound lanes still consistently back up at the Canyon Point on-ramp by noon or earlier. Why doesn’t WSDOT open the shoulder lane earlier in the day to alleviate this traffic choke-point?”
Craig Smiley, a Washington State Department of Transportation spokesman for that project, responded that opening up shoulder driving involves a lot of work before “flipping the switch.”
“For example, every day the WSDOT Incident Response Team completes a drive-through on the shoulder before opening to help confirm there is no major debris in the shoulder, and if so to clear it for traffic,” Smiley wrote. “Also, just before switching the signs to open, the WSDOT Traffic Management Center makes a final check to make sure the shoulder is clear of any disabled vehicle, Washington State Patrol monitoring, or traffic incident that would prevent us from opening the shoulder. We also coordinate opening times with our contractor who is putting the finishing touches on the project, including building a new noise wall.
“This is complicated with the fact that traffic levels are different every day and congestion starts at different times each and every weekday,” he continued. “While the TMC is monitoring this 2-mile stretch of I-405, they are also monitoring other major roadways in the Puget Sound region and must balance competing needs. In addition, the shoulder is still an important aspect of the highway system and is needed at off-peak times for maintenance, law enforcement uses, and a refuge for breakdowns and incidents so we don’t want to open it up to traffic well before it is needed.”
Unlike the set times for shoulder driving on the eastbound U.S. 2 trestle, however, there is some flexibility for opening the shoulder to traffic on I-405.
“We will continue to monitor traffic trends and congestion levels and make adjustments as needed,” Smiley said.
Melissa Slager: email@example.com, 425-339-3432