A $2.8 million project this fall will add a left-turn lane and make other safety improvements at the junction of Interstate 405, 228th Street Southeast and Highway 527.
Whether they’ve driven in Bothell for a day or a lifetime, commuters can always find stress at the busy triangular mashup of Interstate 405, 228th Street Southeast and Highway 527.
The city will deliver some relief this fall in a $2.8 million safety project that adds a left-turn lane, re-times the traffic lights and slows some crash-prone right turns in the Canyon Park area.
Construction will run from early September until Nov. 30, with occasional one-lane closures in the final weeks, said project engineer Nduta Mbuthia. The improvements are funded through the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Program, which distributes federal money.
Bothell not only embraces growth — it even competes with Seattle’s South Lake Union for biotech startups — but the city of 42,640 residents is also a hub for incoming traffic from Kenmore, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Monroe and Woodinville.
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The outcome is gridlock on 228th Street Southeast, which a generation ago was a lightly used shortcut from the horse country of next-door Brier.
This road now attracts some 20,000 cars a day, while 30,000 cars travel Highway 527 between 228th and I-405, and 20,000 cars move to and from downtown Bothell using Highway 527 just south. Numbers like those compare to the Rainier Avenue South/Martin Luther King Jr. Way South junction in Seattle.
There’s still only one left-turn lane from eastbound 228th onto northbound 527, where many drivers immediately turn onto I-405. Bothell will widen 228th to allow two left-turn lanes, marked in red, white and blue paint so motorists can track toward the proper I-405 ramps early, just like in downtown Bellevue.
Bothell will try new “adaptive signal timing,” where lights continually adjust as arriving vehicles are detected. Seattle will install the system for $2 million in and around Mercer Street next year.
Sherman Goong, Bothell transportation planner, said he hopes to reduce the long queues that resulted from cars that cram into a single left-turn lane.
Even at 1 p.m. Thursday, that lineup corked a nearby business intersection, where drivers emerge from a blacktopped cove of ground-level offices, restaurants and hotels.
“It’s a huge problem; I have to deal with it every day,” said Rachel Leckenby, general manager of Extended Stay America, off 228th. “Sometimes you have to wait two lights, just to even get out.”
Goong said a second turn lane could solve another problem, where harried drivers have improvised by misusing one through-lane as an unofficial left-turn lane — so turning cars weave or drift into each other while reaching Highway 527.
Near-hits happen all the time, said Paul Chung, owner of Sid’s Handy Mart, on a steep hill west of the crossing. He said changes are needed.
“People do it either purposely or by mistake,” he said. “Some people are honking, and salute each other.”
Bothell is tightening the intersection to make right turns slower and more visible. Currently there are curved, sweeping corners that let drivers turn right without stopping. But when other traffic drifts into the same lanes, the right-turners brake suddenly and can get rear-ended.
“We’re really not adding additional capacity. It’s more of a safety project,” Goong said.
From 2004-10, the city counted 81 collisions at the crossing that involved 110 people, of whom 16 were seriously injured and 30 suffered other injuries, its 2011 grant application said.
Sidewalks will be rebuilt. There are no bus lanes, and only a minimal bike lane next to cars. Community Transit’s planned Swift II bus-rapid transit line in 2018 would terminate on the other side of I-405, missing the car-dominant Canyon Park retail area.