Monday morning commute: Plan ahead driving across I-90

The Monday morning commute across I-90 is going to look different following the permanent closures of the express lanes.

“I don’t know if I’d say I’m worried, I don’t feel like we’ve gotten a lot of information, will it be a 10 minute increase, a 30 minute increase, I think tomorrow will really be telling,” said Brad Bales, who commutes from Mercer Island to downtown Seattle for work.

He says he’s already planning to leave earlier during the week.

“I'll probably leave 20-30 minutes early just to make sure,” said Bales.

Leaving early and being patient, drivers can expect to see signs letting them know which freeway entrances are closed and where to merge.

Traffic engineers will also be out along I-90 and on Mercer Island during the week monitoring how commuters are adjusting to the changes and what they can do to improve conditions.

“There’s always a shake out period, you don’t always see until you’re knee deep into the commutes, so Monday and Tuesday are going to be telling how drivers are getting the hang of this, what’s it’s looking like,” said Travis Phelps with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The I-90 express lanes closed permanently allowing Sound Transit to construct the 14 mile East Link Light Rail expansion from Seattle to Redmond.

“It’s just a huge project that’s going to be a big game changer for the region,” said Rachelle Cunningham with Sound Transit. The project, building a train across a floating bridge is the first of its kind in the world and a massive engineering undertaking that will take six years with a slated completion date in 2023.

A game changer people can see the benefits of but for the next 6 years a growing frustration of the growing traffic congestion around Seattle.

“Seems like they always end up doing construction when it’s necessary as opposed to planning ahead. It’ll be good to have light rail of course, allow people to come in from further and lighten congestion, but until then it’ll be rough,” said Bale.

The light rail project takes away the express lanes, so one HOV lane has been added in each direction across the bridge which is open to carpoolers 24 hours a day.

For single occupancy vehicles that leaves three regular lanes in each direction.

“We’re not expecting a gigantic traffic impact, we’re not expecting a bunch of people to suddenly surge to 520 or I-5 or I- 405, but we do expect a little confusion,” said Phelps.