MERCER ISLAND - One of the last links on the Interstate 90 project goes into operation today with the opening of a reversible car-pool/transit structure in the Mount Baker Ridge Tunnel.
It will allow buses to go directly into the downtown Seattle bus tunnel from I-90.
The state Department of Transportation has been working on the high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane on I-90 for the past two months, and last week highway crews switched the car-pool lane from the right side of westbound I-90 to the left side. The change was needed to allow buses using the lane to get into the downtown bus tunnel for the first time, and so car pools can reach Sixth Avenue South.
Today's switch involves opening of the reversible car-pool/HOV lanes inside a dedicated part of the Mount Baker tunnel. Car-pool lanes in that portion of the tunnel will operate westbound from 5:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, and eastbound all other hours and on weekends.
Car pools will enter the westbound lanes through a gate on I-90 at the west end of the tunnel. The lane will end at the intersection of Airport Way South and Fifth Avenue South.
Car poolers leaving Seattle for the Eastside will be able to get on the HOV lane at Airport Way South and Fifth Avenue South. This lane will join the main section of I-90 at the west end of the Mount Baker tunnel.
Signs at the east entrance of the tunnel will say when the lanes are available.
Car pools must have a minimum of two people. There is a $47 fine for motorists who use the lane without passengers.
In additional freeway work, on March 3 the state plans to close the exit from eastbound I-90 to East Mercer Way on Mercer Island for four months. The closure is to allow crews to finish construction on I-90. During the closure, motorists going eastbound can use the exit at either 77th Avenue Southeast or West Mercer Way.
For updates on traffic closures or conditions, call 622-CARS.