[C]rews will restripe the westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Montlake and remove the ramp’s temporary bus-only lane that currently allows buses to bypass general-purpose vehicles to reach Montlake Boulevard. The bus lane was temporarily put in place last October, with a plan to close it in March for the Montlake Project construction. Recognizing the value that the temporary lane provided to transit, WSDOT worked with the contractor to keep the lane open as long as possible without affecting construction.
At the request of several Eastside cities, WSDOT looked at ways to preserve the bus lane, but none were deemed viable. It’s frustrating to see it go, but the project was a good reminder that agencies and concerned commuters can work together to make short-term improvements.
10 Replies to “Montlake exit’s temporary bus lane is closing”
I wonder why it took so long to get this bus lane in the first place. It could have been put in years and years ago.
Often, the right people need to be in the room to make these sort of suggestions. A big highway project likely sees few discussions regarding “temporary” transit impacts, nor when when this was designed a decade or two ago, was it possible to know these delays would occur at this level of significance. Bravo for WSDOT on demonstrating some flexibility and acting quickly.
I wonder if the congestion at the offramp will lessen somewhat when the south approach bridge closes. The bottleneck will move eastward and we’ll be back basically to the pre-2015 status quo. Won’t be great, of course, but might not be as bad as it was right before the bus lane went in.
I knew this was coming. I know they wouldn’t do it unless necessary. I’ll be happy when the final vision is complete. But for now, what a downer.
My own experience is that the 541/542 are at crush loads and not coping well without assistance from 545. Tack a 10-15 minute wait at the exit ramp on a crowded bus and this whole experience is going to get unpleasant.
OK, everyone. Grab your seats because what you’re about to read will deeply anger some people who have friends on East Shelby street.
What about a gated, bus-only ramp to Park Avenue East across the 520 Trail? Buses would come out at East Shelby and Montlake Boulevard. You’d need an operator to operate the gate and exclude cars, but that’s only $125,000 plus a couple of hundred K for the temporary ramp. You could even re-stripe the north-south access to Park Avenue from the 520 Trail and use that pavement.
I know, I know — it would be a HUGE disruption of the park, not to mention the Faculty Mansion Row. But it would be only for a year or so and improve the bus situation enormously.
The politics is awful, but the savings on bus operations and rider experience are huge.
Interesting idea. Two obvious issues I see is that 1) the turn would be too sharp for articulated buses unless you eliminated all of the street parking. 2) The pavement is already beat-up as, is, and is not designed to handle the pounding of buses. Even if it’s only a few years, we’re still talking about a lot of buses.
Re-timing the light, I think would help. Right now, the Montlake exit ramp only gets the benefit of about half its light cycle before the road is blocked, due to backup from the Shelby light, which is currently red as the 520 off-ramp has its green. Conceivably the lights could be re-timed so that the short end of the stick goes to the eastbound ramp, rather than the westbound ramp. Since the eastbound ramp does not have any transit, delays there would only affect cars.
The turn from Park to Shelby? It’s actually not too bad: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-122.3017427,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sIQAgpJPGFtNCEPyuFtdHbQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192
Signal timing might help, but the narrowed off-ramp is bound to back up.
Temporary mainline metering when the ramp is too congested could help. They do it on the Bay Bridge and the San Mateo bridge, and on several freeway-to-freeway ramps around the country.
Routes 271, 277, 540, 541, and 542 are all going to face significant delays due to this.
Based on the anecdata I have seen of overcrowding on these routes (typically standing room, and often skipping stops), this is going to be disastrous. The 271 in particular is in desperate need of 60’ coaches, or reduced headways. The 54* routes operate on mixed coaches: some 60’ ones, and some 40’ CNG-fueled hand-me-downs from Pierce Transit. Crowding is less of an issue on those routes but still present.
The 271 in particular is facing problematic crowding due to two factors:
(1) Amazon moving jobs to Bellevue, and
(2) Displaced 550 route rides. It’s often faster to take Link from Westlake and transfer to the 271, to get to Bellevue
On these routes, which are often delayed, this bypass was a saving grace.
Now, I fear the departures will be delayed and exacerbate the problems these routes already have with bunching.
In the days before the bus lane, I used to commute from Bellevue to somewhere along the 48 route. When I took the 271, I sat on the bus in the ramp, watching 2 or 3 route 48 buses drive by. I then found it much more desirable to take the 555, despite its 30 minute headways, all because it used the Montlake Freeway Station, which never backed up with cars because it was bus only. Adding the bus lane evened things out nicely.
With both the freeway station and the bus lane gone, the 550 might come back into play for the best way of getting to Capitol Hill.
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