In other items: Bellevue fire damages kitchen; man gets 6 months for theft, assault; and nature walk planned at Mercer Slough.

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Construction of a new Interstate 90 exit ramp that will connect the car-pool lanes directly to the Eastgate Park & Ride lot begins today. The project, intended to provide quicker access for buses, is a joint venture of Sound Transit, the state Department of Transportation, King County Metro and the city of Bellevue.

The connector, called a direct-access ramp, will rise out of the freeway median to carry buses from the high-occupancy-vehicle lane to the existing 142nd Place Southeast overpass. The $39 million project should be completed next year.

The direct-access ramp is among eight such projects planned in the Puget Sound area. Two others, in Bellevue and Lynnwood, opened last year. The ramp also will feature public art: 32 bronze salmon, each 6 feet long, attached to the interior, exterior and top of pedestrian barriers at the bus stops. The art will be funded through Sound Transit’s STart program.


Fire damages kitchen; family gets out OK

A 30-year-old woman and her three children escaped a fire in their kitchen yesterday after a smoke detector went off.

The family and another relative were unharmed by the fire, which started about 7:30 a.m. in the 1800 block of 132nd Avenue Southeast. The woman, who had been making breakfast, left the room with food on the stove, fire officials said.

The detector went off, but the woman could not put out the fire, which spread around the room. Firefighters extinguished the fire within minutes, but the flames caused about $5,500 damage.

The Red Cross was to provide temporary housing to the family.


Man gets 6 months for theft, assault

A 43-year-old man from Ocean Shores, Grays Harbor County, has been sentenced to six months in jail for stealing $900 worth of cold medicine from a Bellevue drugstore and assaulting employees with a syringe.

Richard Kadlec Jr. pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree theft and third-degree assault in connection with the Jan. 25 incident. He was sentenced Friday in King County Superior Court, and he may serve some of his jail time in work release, prosecutors said.

According to charging documents, Kadlec stole the medicine from a Bartell Drugs store in downtown Bellevue, then brandished the needle and threatened to give AIDS to a security guard and the store manager.


Nature walk planned at Mercer Slough

The Eastside Heritage Center and the city of Bellevue will host a free, guided one-mile walk at Mercer Slough Nature Park from 10 to 11:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Participants should meet at the interpretive signboard in the Winters House parking lot at 2102 Bellevue Way S.E.

Eastside Heritage Center educator and naturalist Barb Williams will help attendees look for birds and native plants and learn about the ways local Native Americans used the plants. Binoculars, rain gear and hiking or walking shoes are suggested. The walk is limited to 15 people, ages 10 and up.

The event is being offered in conjunction with National Take a Walk in the Park Day.

Seattle Times Eastside bureau