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Published on Jul 20, 2012
On Monday, July 23, WSDOT automates the I-5 express lanes. Under the old system, we allotted one hour to switch from southbound to northbound, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday. Under the new plan, the express lanes will be closed to traffic for only 15 minutes.
Mainline at Northgate will close at 11 a.m. and reopen in the northbound direction at 11:15 a.m. Most of the traffic, 70 percent at Northgate and 52 percent at James Street, use these mainline entrances. The next most popular entrance? You guessed it. Mercer. The new weekend schedule has the express lanes closing at 1:30 p.m. and reopening at 1:45 p.m.
This $7 million project is a key Moving Washington project. It uses technology to get the most out of our existing roadways. By adding an extra 45 minutes of operation time to the express lanes, an extra 900 vehicles will use the lanes each weekday and 1000 vehicles will use the lanes on the weekends. An estimated 55,000 vehicles use these lanes each day Monday through Friday. Compare that to traffic at the Ship Canal Bridge which is 217,000. You can see how important these lanes are. This will help alleviate the pressure mid-day on the mainline.
This work includes 45 new cameras, nine new gate controllers, junction boxes, LED (energy-efficient) signs, and miles and miles of new fiber optic cable and Ethernet connections. In short, where it used to take a team of two to drive the entire length of the express lanes to change each sign and close each set of gates, all that can be done with the click of a mouse from the Traffic Management Center in Shoreline. This frees up signals crews to address the backlog of maintenance issues and helps bring our freeway communications systems into the 21st century.