The flyover ramp is complete. What comes next?

The Washington State Department of Transportation is getting ready for the next steps of the Interstate 405 master plan.

Folks in Renton are wondering what is next for the Interstate 405 and state Route 167 interchange from Washington State Department of Transportation, after the recent completion of the direct connector project. The project connects I-405 express toll lanes to the SR 167 carpool lanes.

At a recent council meeting, one Renton resident spoke about the I-405 flyover direct connector that was recently completed. He was concerned about the express lanes not being open to all traffic. He said it offers no improvement to the congestion from the interchange that backs up into the city streets. He said he also thought staff would have advocated for Renton more in relation to this I-405 flyover.

“This project was not publicized and most of us were blindsided,” the resident said at the March 18 council meeting.

The direct connector is part of a larger plan for the area, which includes potential for future modifications to the interchange and traffic impacts on city streets.

According to WSDOT’s website, the strategy for the I-405 corridor has been to first fund projects that directly address the worst congestion choke points. In 2015, WSDOT received $16 billion in funding from the Connecting Washington package.

Other parts of the corridor project that would improve the cloverleaf interchange that slows down traffic are not yet funded, but include an additional general purpose lane on either side, interchange adjustments, noise walls and nearby street adjustments.

The next step in the I-405 corridor plan for Renton is the addition of new express toll lanes from Renton to Bellevue. Construction is anticipated to begin this year and be completed by 2024. According to WSDOT’s website, the project will result in 40 miles of express toll lanes, via the direct connector.

The project includes an additional express toll lane north and southbound and improvements at two Renton I-405 locations, including the Northeast 44th street interchange, which is being converted into a roundabout system and resulted in the closure of a local Denny’s.

In the works are also improvements to the Southport Drive North/Northeast Sunset Boulevard interchange.

There are also proposals for the Renton to Bellevue widening project that could have impacts on Renton Hill neighborhood access, specifically lengthening the Cedar and Renton avenue bridges, that could begin in 2020. And now a new alternative is being considered.

City staff were unable to talk about the possible alternative at the Transportation Committee meeting April 1, due to an agreement with WSDOT, but it was publicly discussed at a Renton Hills Neighborhood meeting April 2.

Staff from WSDOT told neighbors that there is talk of using an older idea from the I-405 Master Plan that removes the Renton Avenue bridge and creates a roadway from Cedar River Trail Drive under I-405 instead. The Cedar bridge would be replaced as planned.

WSDOT is in talks with several design builders over this project, and will have a better idea later in the year what the finalized concept will be. This alternative could also potentially allow for improvements to the Cedar River Trail.

Pending legislation sets the timeline for the rest of the project. According to a presentation to the I-405/SR 167 Executive Advisory Group on April 3, the state still needs to authorize the use of express toll lanes. Lack of support could result in construction delays and budget increases for the Renton to Bellevue widening project.

Renton city council also adopted a resolution April 1 to show full support for state legislation that would offer $16 billion in new transportation funding for more projects on the I-405 corridor, as well as support for toll authorization in time for a 2024 completion.

This includes funding for a direct access ramp at North 8th Street to mediate traffic impacts in Renton while connecting commuters to express toll lanes. City of Renton, in ordinance documents, stated this ramp will help communities of color, as well as Boeing and PACCAR employees, on their work commute.

More information on WSDOT corridor projects, proposed projects is available here.

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