Q: I notice that there is a lot of landscaping ongoing at Southeast Eighth Street and Interstate 405 in Bellevue. It looks great now, but...

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Q:

I notice that there is a lot of landscaping ongoing at Southeast Eighth Street and Interstate 405 in Bellevue. It looks great now, but in a few years I’m sure it will look unmaintained, like other landscaping done along I-405 several years ago. Does a certain percentage of new-construction cost go toward freeway landscaping?


A:

Yes, though it varies with each project, says Jim McBride, maintenance superintendent for the state Department of Transportation.

State contractors are required to maintain plantings for three to five years to help young trees, shrubs and other greenery get established alongside roadways. After that, the level of landscape maintenance depends on state-budget priorities, with maintaining the roadway itself coming first.

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McBride calls maintenance a double-edged sword: When the DOT puts effort and dollars into maintaining miles of landscaping, its gets complaints that taxpayer money should be spent elsewhere; when DOT reduces maintenance, it gets complaints that it’s not doing enough.

“It’s why we typically try to plant things that are native and lower maintenance,” McBride said. “I think the guys do a real good job of balancing the roadside and the roadway.”


Q:

Every Wednesday morning for about the past year, around 7:30 a.m., anti-war/Bush protesters have been facing southbound rush-hour traffic with signs on an overpass in Kirkland over Interstate 405, causing drivers to slow down, slam on brakes, etc. Why have they been allowed to carry on for so long? Why doesn’t law enforcement disperse them before there is an accident on the freeway?

A: Turns out, state law does not ban protesters from gathering on overpasses, so long as they are not blocking traffic along it.


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But if a group is disrupting traffic below, law enforcement will talk to its leaders and remind them of the impact they are having and the liability they might face if an accident were to occur, said Washington State Patrol Sgt. Steven Babb.

“Certainly, we want them to be able to express their views, but at the same time have the balance of public and highway safety,” Babb said. Protesters “are almost always cooperative and they want the same thing. They don’t want what they’re doing to have a negative impact.

“We don’t want to wait for accidents to happen in an area before we try to educate them,” he said.

However, attaching signs to an overpass is illegal, Babb said, whether it’s to celebrate someone’s birthday, support a candidate or drum up support for a cause.


Early warning


Bellevue:

The three left lanes of westbound Interstate 90 just east of the Interstate 405 interchange will be closed from 11 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday so crews can repair the sign that spans the freeway.


Carnation:

The Tolt Bridge on Tolt Hill Road west of Highway 203 will be closed from 7 a.m. tomorrow to 7 p.m. Sunday. During the closure, crews will be fixing potholes on the bridge and repaving 30 feet of each approach road.


Bellevue:

Motorists should expect up to three lanes closed nightly on Interstate 405 in both directions between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Karen Gaudette: 206-515-5618 or kgaudette@seattletimes.com