SEATTLE - The Washington Department of Transportation has big plans for Seattle’s notorious Mercer Mess -- adding meters to the ramps onto I-5 in a move that WSDOT officials say will improve the flow of traffic on the interstate.
Work will start on Saturday when the on-ramp to I-5 South will be closed overnight to start installing equipment. The meters will be installed at lanes for I-5 Northbound and Southbound from Mercer Street.
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“Are these changes going to make the Mercer mess messier?” KIRO 7 reporter Linzi Sheldon asked.
“We're not anticipating the wait on Mercer that people are experiencing now to get any worse,” WSDOT spokesperson Harmony Weinberg said.
It’s a tricky area to tweak.
Drivers KIRO 7 spoke with said traffic is already a “nightmare.”
"It’s just ridiculous,” Steven Iacolo said.
Alex Lawrence, who works at the I Love My Gluten Free Food stand just off Mercer has a front-row seat.
“People will be in the left lane and try to get over, especially at the end, trying to get their way in there,” Lawrence said.
But now WashDOT says it has a solution to improve the flow of cars merging onto I-5 -- at the cost of $250,000.
“You have this big pile of traffic, cars coming from Mercer, all trying to merge on into the system onto southbound I-5,” Weinberg said. “But by taking one car at a time, it's going to allow one vehicle into that system -- that's going to make them easier to get over.”
Weinberg said flow through the I-5 in the area is expected to increase by three to five percent, roughly 210 to 350 vehicles, she said.
She also said ramp meters will reduce collisions on the interstate by a third. WSDOT did not have the number of crashes available but provided a heat map instead. They point to the areas after the ramps as proof that crashes are happening in part because they say people are trying to merge and change lanes.
“I think that's a good idea if actually does work how they mean it to work,” Cecy Topete said.
“I don't think it will,” Steven Iacolo said. “You're still going to have people on the highway that are trying to get to the right or left.”
“It will definitely back it up a lot more,” Alex Lawrence predicted. “If you're having to meter each car going in, that's going to take a long time, I think.”The metering will begin on weekends on March 10 and on weekdays on April 10.
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