The Interstate 405 widening project emerged from this year's legislative session with more money than any other save the replacement of...

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The Interstate 405 widening project emerged from this year’s legislative session with more money than any other save the replacement of Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way Viaduct — an outcome widely attributed to intense lobbying from Eastside lawmakers.

Before adjourning Sunday, the Legislature earmarked $972 million to fund 11 improvements along the clogged Eastside north-south artery. They include an extra northbound lane between highways 522 and 527 to ease afternoon backups into Bothell and a new overpass at Bellevue’s Northeast 10th Street to provide direct access to Overlake Hospital Medical Center.

The funds are part of an $8.5 billion transportation package, funded mostly through a 9.5-cent gas-tax increase over four years, that includes $2 billion for the viaduct and $500 million to replace the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. Both have been declared seismically deficient.

Craig Stone, project manager for the I-405 project, yesterday said he was excited by the Legislature’s support, which he said had fluctuated as the Senate and House debated what to fund in the transportation package and whether to approve anything at all.

The House wanted to put millions of dollars more toward replacing the 520 bridge than widening I-405, Stone said. The Senate’s transportation plan, meanwhile, closely mirrored what eventually was approved.

Sen. Luke Esser, R-Bellevue, said it was easier to rally behind Interstate 405 since that project offers more specifics as to what’s going to be built and how much it will cost. Also, a wider I-405 would play a vital role in absorbing traffic diverted from the viaduct when it’s replaced in the coming years, he said.

“It’s harder to be an advocate for the project until you know exactly what it is we’re going to build and have a pretty good idea what it’s going to cost,” Esser said.

Stone said motorists would notice many changes along the interstate’s bottlenecks between now and 2010, including:

• Widening between Interstate 5 and Highway 169 (I-5 to Highway 181, northbound Highway 167 to Highway 169, southbound Highway 167 from I-405 to Southeast 180th and the Highway 515 interchange).

• Widening between Highway 169 to Interstate 90 (Northeast 44th to 112th Avenue Southeast, 112th Avenue Southeast to I-90).

• A new I-405 crossing along Bellevue’s Northeast 10th Street and a northbound braided crossing that connects Northeast Eighth Street to 520.

• Widening between Northeast 124th to Highway 522 and adding a new Northeast 132nd Street interchange.

• A new northbound lane between Northeast 195th Street and Highway 527.

The plan passed by the Legislature came with a condition: The region must come up with its share of money — expected to be hundreds of millions — by January 2007 or risk losing the funds. Stone said the I-405 project would move forward with environmental and engineering work regardless, so that it would be prepared to start construction when funding is guaranteed.

The new projects would complement those already under way along I-405 in Bellevue, Kirkland and Renton that were funded by the Legislature’s 2003 nickel gas-tax increase.

Under the I-405 project master plan, the highway eventually would grow by two lanes in either direction and would be able to accommodate 110,000 additional trips per day along the 30-mile corridor.

Sound Transit is helping to build new transit stations, park-and-ride lots and special freeway ramps for buses to encourage more transit use. Sound Transit also is discussing whether light rail, monorail or a network of speedy buses someday would roll along the corridor.

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