Bellevue plans immediate demolition of Main Street Bridge over I-405, creating ‘huge backups’

Bellevue drivers are about to lose one of their I-405 overpasses, as the project to widen the freeway ramps up.

The Main Street Bridge over I-405 is expected to close on Monday, and the closure will last five months.  This bridge is between the busy NE 8th and SE 8th overpasses on either end of downtown Bellevue.

Sharif Shaklawun is the head of the I-405 expansion plan. He said the bridge needs to go to make room for the new lanes being built on the freeway.  “The existing bridge is three very narrow spans, and there’s no space to add another lane on the mainline of I-405,” he said.  “The new bridge will be longer and wider to allow for the widening of I-405.”

In case you have forgotten, the state is adding a lane in each direction of I-405 between downtown Bellevue and Renton. That lane will become part of the express toll lane expansion along the corridor. This will create a double toll lane facility from Bothell to Renton.  You will start seeing the widening process ramp up later this year.

Project engineer John Lefotu said there isn’t a lot of room on the corridor, with houses on one side and Lake Washington on the other. He said they’ve had to get really creative to find the space.  “We don’t have any real estate readily available that’s affordable to anybody so we have to be very creative, and the contractor has to be even more creative to try to put these improvements in,” he said.

You might have noticed all the work on the east side of the freeway at 44th at the north end of Renton. Lefotu said they did all this preparation work to accommodate an upcoming lane shift during the widening.

Back to the closure of the Main Street Bridge in Bellevue. To demolish the bridge, the state will need to close I-405 through Bellevue for an entire weekend.  That is planned for next weekend: Friday evening June 17th through early Monday morning on the 20th.

The Washington Department of Transportation’s Craig Smily said this will create huge backups.  “Plan for a little extra time if you absolutely have to take that route, but the more people that can use transit or different routes or travel on off-peak hours will make all the difference in the world,” he said.

The positive news for that weekend is that the state will not be working on I-5 through Seattle, so it won’t be a double whammy.

The new Main Street Bridge will open in five months, with only one lane in each direction. It will be another two months before it opens all of its lanes.

As for the I-405 widening project, manager Shaklawun said the schedule has been impacted by Covid delays and as well as the King County concrete workers strike, and planners haven’t figured out how far that might put them behind.  “We are in the process of evaluating those impacts, especially the concrete strike,” he said.  The project has fallen behind a little bit, but we are still looking at a 2024 completion.”

The current schedule calls for the new lanes to open in summer or late fall of 2024, which could be pushed back.