Metro Transit van-pooling reaches an all-time high

Van pools and Vanshare commuter groups sponsored by King County Metro Transit are on the rise, according to a news bulletin this week. Metro has 663 van-pool groups in operation and 60 groups in the new Vanshare program. This gives Metro 723 commuter vans in service — an all-time high for the agency.

For Eastside commuters, the county's various programs offer ways to slip into the diamond lane and shorten the ride.

Van pools carry five to 14 workers to and from the job for a monthly fee — the more folks in the van, the cheaper the fare. Commuters can hook up with vans going their way either online or by phone, and the options are endless. Currently, there are openings in van pools heading from North Bend, Renton and Mukilteo to downtown Bellevue; from Seattle and Federal Way to Bothell; from Maple Valley to Issaquah; and from Everett to Microsoft in Redmond — and that's just a few. Commuters can start new pools, too, to fit their needs.

The Vanshare program provides the "missing link," helping commuters get to park-and-ride lots or van-pool meeting spots without driving on their own.

If you want a speedier commute but are not interested in a van, Metro's regional Ridematch system has more than 11,000 names of commuters who want to share a ride. There's also the new Rideshare Plus, a customized service that helps employers set up car-pool and van-pool programs for their employees.

To sign up, call or go online: 206-625-4500 or or

Q. The exit from Highway 522 onto Highway 9 just past the northern border of Woodinville is a busy intersection for commuters. It is also at the southern end of the proposed Brightwater sewage plant. And now there's talk of a Costco being built at that intersection, across from 240th Street Southeast. Is there a master plan for Highway 9 at this location? Will the road be widened and the intersection rebuilt? Won't these two major construction projects have an impact on daily traffic?

A. State Department of Transportation (DOT) engineers are designing a project to widen and improve Highway 9 from south of the Highway 522 exit to the intersection at 212th Street Southeast (Maltby Road). The highway will be widened to two lanes in each direction with added left- and right-turn lanes at intersections, according to DOT spokesman Greg Phipps. Construction on the $34.8 million project is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2005 and should be complete in late 2006. A later stage of the project will continue the widening up to 176th Street Southeast.

While construction is under way, lanes will only be closed during off-peak hours, Phipps said.

He said DOT is coordinating with King County's Brightwater project staff to minimize traffic problems during the facility's construction. Phipps said Snohomish County will decide whether or not to issue a building permit for a Costco, and that the state is working with the county to consider a variety of potential traffic solutions in the event the development is built, including adding turn lanes and widening the county road in front of the Costco site. Any of those improvements would be coordinated with the Highway 9 widening project, according to the state.

Early warning

Bellevue — The northbound Interstate 405 offramp to westbound Northeast Eighth Street and the southbound onramps will be closed each night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting Monday night and ending Friday morning. The southbound Interstate 405 offramps will be closed from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 6 a.m. Thursday. Drivers also should expect nightly closures next week of up to three lanes of I-405 in both directions beginning at 8 p.m. All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. each morning.

Got a traffic question?

Send it to The Seattle Times Eastside News Bureau, 1200 112th Ave. N.E., Suite C-145, Bellevue, WA 98004. Fax: 425-453-0449. E-mail: