By 2024, Sound Transit says it will have fast bus service running along both I-405 and SR-522, servicing communities on the north, south, and east sides of Lake Washington.
Officially dubbed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the plans calls for high-capacity buses that with off-board payment, allowing riders to enter or exit through multiple doors, similar to King County Metro’s RapidRide system.
The proposed line along I-405 will run 37 miles from Lynnwood to Burien, stopping at 11 existing bus stations and a proposed new transit center in South Renton. The line will also intersect with yet-to-be-built Link Light Rail stations in Lynnwood, Bellevue, and the existing Tukwila station. Sound Transit projects that riders will be able to reach Bellevue from Lynnwood in 45 minutes, and Burien from Bellevue in 48.
Similarly, the SR-522 BRT route will run eight miles between Shoreline and Woodinville, servicing nine stations and connecting to the planned light rail station in Shoreline at NE 145th St. With this new route, Sound Transit estimates that riders will be able to get from Lake Forest Park to downtown Seattle in 38 minutes.
“The speed, frequency, and reliability of BRT service will mean major improvements in riders’ commutes,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff wrote in a statement.
Building a Sound Transit BRT network is part of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 transportation funding package, which voters passed back in 2016. The Eastside BRT projects are financed by ST3-driven increases in regional funding sources (property taxes, sales taxes and car tab fees) within the Sound Transit taxing district. Sound Transit does not anticipate seeking federal grants for the expansion.
Sound Transit aims to spend the rest of 2018 soliciting public input and drafting route plans for the Eastside BRT expansion, after which the Sound Transit Board will authorize draft engineering plans and run them through the environmental review process in 2019. Assuming everything goes according to plan, proposed route alignments will be selected in 2020, design and engineering elements finalized by 2022, and construction finished by 2024.
Simultaneously, the Washington state Department of Transportation is working on building out express toll lanes for high-capacity vehicles along I-405 from Bellevue to Renton. Construction is slated to finish in 2024, just in time for Sound Transit’s rollout of BRT along the same route. The BRT buses will be able to utilize the new lanes.
A public meeting on the SR-522 route is expected to occur the last week of May, while a similar event on the I-405 route is slated for June. Details on both have yet to be determined, per a Sound Transit spokesperson.