Drivers prepare as Mercer metering set to begin Tuesday

SEATTLE - Weekday metering on the Interstate 5 on-ramps from Mercer Street in Seattle will begin on Tuesday.

WSDOT has been testing out the metering on weekends since March 10th and they say it has been successful. They pushed the rollout on weekdays to give drivers more time to adjust to the meters.

WSDOT says the meters will automatically activate when the system detects heavy volumes on I-5 and that can happen during rush hour or when events take place at around Seattle Center.

WSDOT says the meters are necessary so traffic on I-5 can move smoother.

“By utilizing all lanes on the ramp it’s going to allow the meter to push more cars through and more evenly on I-5,” said Harmony Weinberg with WSDOT.

Before drivers get onto the freeway, they will notice lots of new signs posted around the on-ramps indicated which lanes are allowed to be used to merge onto the freeway when the meters are activated.

“We observed on Saturdays and Sundays that drivers heading northbound onto I-5 were hesitant to use the left lane. When the meters are on, a sign flashes to advise folks to use both lanes. We expect that additional signs will grab drivers’ attention even more. Within the next few weeks we will also be installing an electronic sign on the northbound ramp to further alert drivers that they can use either lane approaching the ramp meter,” said Weinberg.

When the meters activate on the southbound on-ramp, drivers can spread out into three lanes and WSDOT encourages drivers to use the left shoulder lane.

“While we saw some folks use the left shoulder, we expect drivers to take full advantage of this option as they continue to get used to the new meters,” said Weinberg.

Drivers in Seattle say the ripple effect of the meters will back Mercer street up even further, which city transportation officials say is already at capacity. They say the focus should be on easing congestion on Mercer not I-5.

“We worked closely with our friends at the Seattle DOT to monitor city street traffic and saw no impacts from the new meters. It’s important to understand that the meters are allowing the same number of vehicles onto the freeway as before; they just break up the pile of cars trying to merge and organize them in a manner that has less impact to the flow of traffic on I-5,” said Weinberg.

Q13 reached out to SDOT to comment on how they will react if back-ups do happen on Mercer and side streets. They did not respond to our request.