By Mary Stevens Decker
While construction zones can be noisy and messy, most drivers recognize that the end result, an easier commute, will make the hassle worthwhile.
That’s certainly the case for the SR 520 widening project in Redmond, between West Lake Sammamish Parkway and SR 202.
“Residents remind me that it is about time the project moves forward,” said Redmond Mayor John Marchione. “People are especially happy that the city and state are cooperatively moving Bear Creek away from 520 to improve the fish habitat.”
City of Redmond transportation services manager Don Cairns stated, “The first phase, the flyover from Redmond Way to westbound 520, has received a lot of positive feedback since being completed last year.”
City officials are confident that the completion of the SR 520 project will benefit Redmond residents and workers because, “SR 520 is the city’s preferred route for people who want to bypass Redmond altogether,” said Marchione. “This will benefit those who live and work in Downtown, Southeast Redmond and Education Hill and those who want to do business in these same neighborhoods.”
Bruce Newman, traffic signal operations engineer for the City of Redmond, explained that other benefits include “additional capacity in the morning. Much of the existing bottleneck in the morning is due to the two southbound lanes merging to one on the bridge over Redmond Way. This causes traffic to back up to Union Hill Road and on Avondale Road and reduces the efficiency of the signalized intersection.”
Also, said Newman, “Additional capacity in the afternoon. Currently, the signalized intersection at Avondale Road/Union Hill Road cannot operate efficiently because only one lane exists on SR 520 over Redmond Way. When the signal crossing on Union Hill turns green, the two lanes that continue to Avondale Road can move traffic efficiently only for about 50 seconds. Thereafter, other cars stuck on SR 520 before Redmond Way can only approach one at a time, so further green time is moving fewer vehicles.”
Plus, Newman added, “Extension of the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) network will reduce delays for carpoolers and especially for transit to/from the Bear Creek Park and Ride. There used to be two bottlenecks: the Union Hill intersection and the single lane over Redmond Way. The City of Redmond project completed this past spring increased capacity at the signalized intersection. The WSDOT project will increase capacity on SR 520, helping both the morning and afternoon commutes. Congestion will remain, however, since an arterial at the end of a freeway can never carry as much traffic as the freeway.”
The improvements in Redmond are having a regional ripple effect — and the ripple is good, according to Marchione.
He said, “Residents of Sammamish and Duvall have reported tremendous savings in their commute times since the flyover ramp opened. I have noticed that traffic flows better in those intersections near Redmond Way and 520. We are steadily making improvements.”
Newman concurred, “The SR 202 widening in conjunction with the flyover has dramatically improved capacity on the SR 202 corridor.”
That said, SR 202 has been adversely impacted this summer by some back-ups due to closures on Union Hill Road (a King County project), East Lake Sammamish Parkway (a City of Sammamish project) and even the Interstate 90 closure in July.
What are the next traffic and transportation challenges in the East Redmond corridor that also affects commuters from Sammamish, Duvall and Woodinville?
Marchione said improvements will include King County extending 196th Avenue Northeast from Novelty Hill Road to Union Hill Road and improving Union Hill Road, while the city will be extending 188th and 185th Avenues Northeast to Union Hill Road.
“The more of a street grid we have in place, the better people and goods can move to their destinations,” he predicted.
Cairns said the city was completing a comprehensive transportation study of Southeast Redmond that includes Avondale Road and the area of Redmond north and east of SR 520.
“That study is focused on needs in 2030, the ultimate set of improvements needed for the study area and a recommendation of a near term action plan for the next three to six years.”
Mary Stevens Decker is a reporter for the Redmond Reporter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org