405/520 interchange, from flickr user jellywatson

Our state government is likely to put together a stimulus package, and Governor Christine Gregoire has released her plan for the stimulus spending. There’s more than $800 million in spending, $427 million on construction projects, $390 million for transportation projects, and another $400 million in corporate tax breaks, unemployment benefits and worker training. The transportation spending should be good news for 545 riders and 242 riders like Ben and I: it will nearly all go to help fix the SR520/I-405 interchange in North Bellevue.  The unemployment money would come from the state’s unemployment insurance fund, but it’s not obvious where the rest of the money will come from.

Obviously, I’m biased since I commute the route every day, but I’m mildly happy with this stimulus. Gregoire could have put a lot of money for rural highway projects or lane expansion, but this is mostly a congestion relief project that will make BRT on 520 more reliable and affordable.

36 Replies to “Gregoire’s Stimulus Plan”

    1. Tolling has been pioneered in S King County and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge – and what do we get for it?

      Pierce projects get nailed, delayed past the end of current funding authority, HOV lanes from Downtown Tacoma to the County Line and perhaps most galling, 167 connections from the Port of Tacoma to S. King County via an extended 167, and more.

      What gives?

  1. Fixing the 405/520 interchange would also help with traffic on northbound 405 immensely. There’s always a big slowdown in the stretch between NE 8th and 520.

    1. One of the problems with that stretch is weaving traffic from the NE 8th on-ramp entering 405 and traffic going to 520 from 405. There are also slowdowns as seen in the photo above from WB 520 merging on to SB 405 because of more merging from EB 520 and the NE 8th exit just downstream (beyond the top of the photo). Another trouble spot, also shown in the photo, is the ramp from EB 520 to NB 405 which jams up solid every evening. My bus has to bypass it by making a U-turn in downtown Bellevue via NE 8th. Fixing the bottlenecks and weaving areas will improve traffic flow for everyone.

  2. Maybe this will be like the LAST time the fixed the interchanged in the early 1990s, if memory serves. Expanding highway capacity is a fool’s errand that will only bankrupt the State Highway Department.

    1. True! That’s one of the reasons I like this: it’s not a new highway or even a new lane.

    2. Well I will say the last fix did improve traffic flow. I’m not sure why they didn’t address the braid/weave issue then.

      I agree that adding highway capacity in most cases is a fool’s errand. However fixing choke points like this is a relatively cheap way to increase capacity and improve traffic flow.

      In the specific case of the 405/520 interchange or Spokane st. viaduct the congestion created by poor ramp configuration also impacts any transit in the area. It takes the “Rapid” out of Rapid Ride and “Express” out of ST Express.

      1. Sorry for the excess sarcasm. Fixing chock points IS a worthwhile task. Arbitrarily deciding that I-405 needs another lane it’s entire length is a waste of money. I would argue it is really traffic backing up off of exit ramps, or accidents during lane changing, that is causing the majority of delays, not a lack of lane miles. In fact, wider highways make accidents more likely (more lane changing, more cars in center lanes with no shoulder as an “out”).

        But even when the DOT undid the cloverleaf 15-some-odd years ago, it only worked for a while. Now the they have to fix it again. I fear this may be another quick fix that doesn’t address the real problems in that corridor.

    1. Since that interchange doesn’t have dedicated hov raps to change between the freeways, those raps impact buses and well and will impact bus connections to and from link.

      The problem isn’t really capacity, but poor design. The current design requires alot of merging of lanes of traffic. The design for the interchange assumed the hov lanes would have enough spare capacity that traffic changing freeways would merge easily.

      1. Right. There’s also traffic from 8th or 10th in Bellevue that is going to 520, that has to merge onto 405 before going there, and the larger project would fix that.

  3. Come on now, you know where the money will come from. The Federal Reserve will print some more so we can kick in that grand inflation! :)

    Everything will be fine then, we’ll all be able to incur massive new debts and the Government can then pay it off while putting the burden on our backs. It’s the way the fractional federal reserve banking system works…

    …but on other positive news.

    Good to see the funds going toward some positive things like infrastructure. Especially the transit funding.

  4. For everyone saying that the 520/405 Internchange improvements aren’t worth it or no problem exists, shame on you. You sound the EXACT same as the folks who said “well I wont vote for ST2 becuase it wont help ME, it won’t be part of MY commute.”

    520/405 is a key hub in the transportation NETWORK, improving the interchange will improve traffic on 520 and eventually I-5. Think about it.

  5. I avoid 520 like the plague, but isn’t the real problem the afternoon westbound merge from I-405 to 520? It doesn’t look like this project does anything to alleviate that.

    1. Thats part of the problem…and it will adjust that by creating an onramp in bellevue that will go directly to 520.

  6. I hate that they are making 10th st the on ramp point for this project. Right now 10th is being highly developed as 10-20 story residential. With this project 10th will have MUCH more traffic and not be very ped friendly. Who is going to want to move onto a street that is an autoban for 520? 10th would be a great street to put on street parking and reduce to 1 lane but that will never happen now.

    They also plan to do the same thing to 2nd. Bellevue says they want to be bike and ped friendly then they make plans to make the two quiet streets in DT have much higher traffic. arrggg…

    1. Well reconnecting the street grid in Bellevue over I-405 will help improve surface street traffic flow rather than channeling it all to a few overpasses.

      Speaking of which, whoever decided to build the 124th st overpass in Totem Lake without sidewalks should be taken out and shot.

      1. I don’t think there was anything around there when they built that overpass, so that’s probably why there’s no sidewalks.

    2. DT Bellevue isn’t very walkable. Each road is 4-9 lanes, and the blocks are really long.

      1. It is getting better though.

        Compared to 20 years ago Bellevue has many fewer buildings surrounded by huge parking lots and many more buildings right up to the line of the sidewalk. Still they have a long way to go before they match downtown Kirkland much less many parts of Seattle.

      2. Define walkable…I’d rather have long blocks than a bunch of short blocks punctuated by 2 and 3 lane streets.

      3. PDX downtown has shorter blocks and 2 and 3 lane streets , and I that to be far more ped friendly than large boulevards and long blocks, which allow cars to speed up to intersections, causing a greater risk to peds. Of course it depends if you’re really walking

      4. As long as those long blocks have mid-block crosswalks, then it’s okay. It sucks having to walk half a mile to just cross to the other side of the busy street like in… Lynnwood.

  7. I personally feel safer walking in Bellevue than Seattle because I don’t have to cross a street every few hundred feet where. Also, I’m pretty sure every main cross street in Bellevue has a ped-signal where cities with more frequent cross streets are less likely to have ped protection at each one. Finally, speaking from a sustainability point of view, fewer cross streets allow for higher density. Just my observations.

    1. Portland is walkable from a physical standpoint because of the dense grid network that has high connectivity between properties. Its streets are narrower and traffic is slower making it safer for peds and cyclists. Bellevue may be safer, but the huge block sizes and mega developments make it not a very pleasant place to walk, especially if it means having to walk more along a high-speed arterial. Many European cities have a dense street network dating to medieval periods and their overall densities are much higher than any place we have over here without the need for tall towers.

    2. Fewer crossings only allow for more density if the streets aren’t 7~9 lanes. In DT seattle, the blocks are half as long in one direction and about the same in the other. But the streets are 2 lanes instead of 7-9. That’s significantly more space devoted to concrete roadways in DT bellevue.

    3. There is 1 street in DT bellevue with 7-9 lanes. I’m saying its my opinion that I prefer walking in Belleve over Seattle, are we going to split hairs here?

      1. Where do you walk in Bellevue? I worked there for years, and would take my car absolutely everywhere. The times I did walk it was far from comfortable – there is an average of two or three busy driveways on every block. In Seattle I walk about everywhere (except when the bus tunnel helps, then I ride).

      2. I work in the NE quarter of DT (12th and 112th area). Sometimes I drive to work, sometimes I take the bus to the transit center. At first I didn’t like walking in Bellevue compared to Seattle, but the reason was because I didn’t think I was going anywhere because the blocks were long. Once I came to that revelation, I’ve enjoyed my walks in Bellevue. I’ll routinely walk to the post office or Bellevue square area for lunch and its actually further than walking from Yesler to Stewart St. in Seattle (DT core) though it doesn’t seem that far in Seattle.

        The DT core of Bellevue does have some nice park features and greenery, and as someone has said, its getting much better than it used to be. The nice thing about superblocks is when 3 or 4 buildings go up, plazas typically get built in between those buildings. Take the one directly south of the Bellevue TC for example.

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