Ask drivers who regularly use the I-90/SR 18 interchange what they think about the often congested, slightly antiquated, signal-controlled interchange – and you will most likely get an earful.
If you were on Snoqualmie Parkway on Friday, July 15th around 4:30PM, you might have found yourself screaming in your car, with drivers waiting through light after light trying to get through the interchange – and traffic backed up nearly a mile all the way to Swenson Drive. There was no accident at this point either…. that came around 6PM.
In fact, it got so bad on Friday that one truck took to driving on the walking path adjacent Snoqualmie Parkway – leading to 911 call from one frustrated driver. Late Sunday afternoon a similar traffic nightmare resumed in the same spot – with normal traffic congestion only exasperated by the busy summer travel season.
The word drivers most often use for the headache-causing interchange is dangerous, with eastbound traffic regularly backed up onto I-90 while vehicles wait to merge onto SR 18 – sometimes as far as a mile. During the past few weeks, approximately three serious accidents occurred on this stretch of 70MPH I-90 where right lane traffic sits and waits. This is coupled by narrow, un-lit lanes traveling over the Tiger Mountain summit, where there are also often accidents.
The interchange is also filled with large semis making their way east and west via the two freeways transporting goods and products. The majority of commuters using the interchange, though, are southeast King County residents making their way to and from the Eastside using SR 18 to avoid the notorious traffic on SR 167 and I-405. As a result, backups over Tiger Mt. in the morning and onto I-90 in the evening are now commonplace.
Solution on the Far Horizon
During the 2015 state legislative session, $150 million of the $16 billion Transportation Bill (funded by a gas tax) was earmarked for I-90/SR 18 improvements, including possible flyover ramps and a SR 18 expansion to 4 lanes between I-90 and Tiger Mountain.
All good news, but unfortunately the funding isn’t scheduled to come through until 2023. Even with Snoqualmie Ridge home construction ending next year, with a new 5,000 home community planned near Black Diamond, and skyrocketing home prices in the Seattle-Bellevue area redefining the suburbs, traffic is predicted to get worse.
So what are the interim plans?
5th District Representative Jay Rodne said he’s working to build a coalition of East King County Representatives and Senators to join together and propose legislation next session to advance the 90/18 project timeline by at least three years.
Police Chief Plans to Address Interchange Traffic Violations
Via email, and in response to one resident’s concern over last Friday’s Snoqualmie Parkway ‘traffic nightmare,’ interim Snoqualmie Police Chief Jim Schaeffer said SPD will have increased patrol presence near the interchange to combat illegal traffic moves, including improper u-turns and use of the right turn-only lane that accesses westbound I-90 – moves that residents report seeing frustrated drivers do to ‘cheat’ their way through the interchange faster.
As Snoqualmie’s city limits stop just before the busy interchange, Chief Schaeffer also said he would forward concerns onto the Washington State Patrol and Washington State Department of Transportation so that they might also step up their patrols in the area.
Until then, patience will be needed from drivers – especially on summer weekends. Tip: Local drivers often suggest using SR 202 to travel between Snoqualmie and North Bend, if possible, during evening commute hours as a way to avoid the 90/18 mess.