Saturday, August 14, 2010

On The Road Again: Wilburton Redux

So long ago and far away, I talked about the demise of the Wilburton Tunnel in Bellevue, just north of the concrete tangle where I-405 meets I-90. The reason for the removal was more lanes and better traffic flow, but it hasn't worked out that way.

Let me lay out the current situation. If you're coming southbound on I-405, you have for a brief stretch six lanes of traffic. Left to right, they are:
 - Lane 1: An HOV lane continuing south on 405
 - Lanes 2 and 3: Regular occupancy lanes continuing south on 405
 - Lane 4: Regular occupancy lane that becomes an exit to I-90 East (towards Spokane and, legends have it, Chicago).
 - Lane 5: Regular occupancy lane that becomes an exit to I-90 West (towards Seattle), And ...
 - Lane 6: An HOV lane that joins the HOV lane on I-90 West.

Got that in your mind? Good. Now, getting on the highway from 8th, the southernmost of the Bellevue exits, after you merge, you're in Lane 5. If you want to head south to, say, Renton, you have to get to Lane 3. And with all these lanes, you should be able to easily, right?

But, ah, there's the rub. There is apparently something wrong with the entrance on I-90 East, where Lane 4 enters onto the highway. Something so wrong that the traffic backs up onto I-405 South, and forms a Wall of Internal Combustion (which is an old Magic: The Gathering card) between Lanes 3 and 5. Which means that everyone has to negotiate the changeovers between the lanes, slowing down traffic in those adjacent lanes as well. Add to that people from lanes 2 and 3 trying to get over to lanes 4 and 5, and the HOVs in Lane 1 trying to exit, and you have an unholy mess, as nasty as it was when we had only four lanes and a big concrete tunnel in the way.

Yeah, they will have to address this one, but it reminds me that working on highways is like doing the plumbing in an old house. Yeah, you may replace the leaky pipes in one area, but the change in pressure will spring the seams in a dozen more places.

More later,