A three-level interchange on Interstate 405 at Northeast 85th Street in Kirkland would separate cars from buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Image courtesy of WSDOT

A three-level interchange on Interstate 405 at Northeast 85th Street in Kirkland would separate cars from buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Image courtesy of WSDOT

Council weighs in on NE 85th Street BRT station

A three-level design would improve access for transit, cars and pedestrians.

After studying more than two dozen options for the Interstate 405 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) station at Northeast 85th Street in Kirkland, staff from Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) presented two design concepts to the Kirkland City Council on May 1.

One was the original design, which would retain the large cloverleaf-type interchange, with 85th Street passing below the freeway. Long and steep pedestrian bridges would cross over the I-405 ramps and connect to the BRT station, which would be at the freeway level.

The second is a three-level “separated transit interchange.” The top level would be the I-405 mainline. The middle level would provide access to and from the express toll lanes, along with pedestrian/bicycle circulation, and would be home to BRT stations and local bus stops. The bottom level would carry through traffic on 85th Street.

Sound Transit staff showed the council a video simulation of the walk from local bus stops to the transit stations, comparing the initial 6-10 minute trek to the 1-2 minute stroll in the new design. The separated interchange “improved non-motorized access, [and provided] greater drop-off/pick-up opportunities.”

The new concept is also cheaper, costing $235-260 million, as opposed to the planned $300-330 million. Construction is still scheduled for 2021-24, when the station will open.

Council members praised the new design as “creative” and “bold.” Removing the clover leaf also opens up opportunities for land use and development along the 85th Street corridor, they said.

Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold said he appreciated the level of engagement of Sound Transit and WSDOT with the city, and the opportunities for improved safety. He said he hoped for a similar process as the agencies collaborate on another project: bus-only lanes on 85th Street between I-405 and 6th Street, near Kirkland Urban. Both projects are funded by Sound Transit 3 (ST3), approved by voters on Nov. 8, 2016.

BRT is a key element of the multi-modal I-405 Master Plan, though ridership projections are low, according to the Seattle Transit Blog. Still, the city of Kirkland sees benefits to the project beyond transit, including safer bike and pedestrian connections not only to BRT but also across 85th Street, and improved access to the HOT lanes, said council member Jon Pascal.

Later in its meeting, the city council discussed the neighborhood plans for Bridle Trails, North/South Rose Hill and the 85th Street subarea. They talked about adding density along 85th Street, and how to connect the new station to the Cross Kirkland Corridor.

Next steps for the BRT project include preliminary engineering and environmental review. Staff will present the design to the Sound Transit Board this summer. Contact Sound Transit (brt@soundtransit.org) and the Kirkland City Council (citycouncil@kirklandwa.gov) with project feedback.

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