SEATTLE – Interstate 90 in Seattle will have a new look when Smarter Highways goes live in time for the morning commute on Wednesday, June 8.
Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) crews are making final touches before bringing online the electronic speed-limit and lane-status signs that stretch along westbound I-90 between 150th Avenue S.E. in Bellevue and Interstate 5 in Seattle. Crews will also activate the signs on eastbound I-90 between I-5 and West Mercer Way on Mercer Island. The remaining eastbound signs will be covered until the I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations, Stage 2 project opens to traffic early next year.
“With the help of federal funds, we’re investing in this technology that will help keep drivers and emergency responders safe on our highways and reduce congestion through some of the worst bottlenecks in the state,” said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “I’m proud of the innovative work our department has completed on time and on budget.”
The signs are part of the SR 520/I-90 Active Traffic Management project and will alert drivers to reduce their speed or change lanes when there are collisions or backups on the road. I-90 is the third Puget Sound-area highway to receive the new high-tech overhead signs that display variable speed limits, lane status and real-time traffic information to let drivers know what's happening on the road ahead. Crews have installed more than 300 new electronic signs on I-5, SR 520 and I-90 as part of Smarter Highways.
WSDOT traffic engineers are noticing a difference in driver behavior in the Smarter Highways corridors. They see drivers getting out of closed lanes sooner and giving workers more room to safely accomplish their task. Getting drivers out of the lane sooner also reduces the stop-and-go traffic around closed lanes and allows emergency responders to get to an incident more quickly.
“I used to worry about making stops along the highway at night because drivers come around the corner at high speeds unaware of stopped vehicles in the roadway or on the side,” said Washington State Patrol Trooper Julie Startup. “With Smarter Highways signs telling drivers what’s ahead, I’ve noticed people slow down and give me space, which makes me feel a lot safer.”
Smarter Highways technology and techniques are a vital component of Moving Washington, WSDOT’s statewide strategy for improving mobility. The program uses new tools and technologies to better manage congestion by using existing freeways more efficiently.
Smarter Highways is one of several federally funded projects under way to help reduce congestion and improve safety on SR 520 and I-90 in the Puget Sound area. The projects are a cooperative effort between WSDOT, Puget Sound Regional Council, King County and Federal Highway Administration. This collaboration, known as the Lake Washington Urban Partnership, aims to improve traffic flow across the lake by implementing variable tolling on SR 520 and Smarter Highways on SR 520 and I-90, enhancing transit service and supporting regional carpool and telework programs.
To learn more about making Puget Sound highways smarter, visit www.smarterhighways.com.
For information about Moving Washington visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/movingwashington.