When most people think of Redmond these days, they probably imagine a booming metropolis just brimming with all sorts of technology everywhere that you look (either that, or some dark village from Mordor ruled over by Bill Gates with an iron fist, but that’s another story.) To some extent, this is true, but the history of Redmond dates back to long before Microsoft even existed, and for much of its history Redmond was a largely rural community comprised mostly of loggers and farmers working in the surrounding area. Because of this, the roads running through Redmond’s downtown area weren’t exactly designed in a logical fashion. The most dubious feature of this design is the split of Redmond Way into two one-way roads (the other being Cleveland Street) running through much of the downtown area, but traffic through downtown Redmond has long proved a challenge.
For example, take a look at this picture, taken from the Birds-Eye View of Live Search Maps. The arrow (excuse my somewhat lacking drawing skills here) shows the left turn to get from Westbound Redmond way in the downtown area, right near where Cleveland Street splits the eastbound traffic off of Redmond Way. This is a pretty straightforward turn, although it could be tricky to make sometimes when there was a lot of traffic. Because of the split here, the majority of eastbound traffic is going to be turning right onto Cleveland St. here, with lesser amounts of traffic either turning left onto 160th Ave. NE, or going straight (the lane continues for about another block before the eastbound traffic is forced to turn left onto 161st Ave. NE.) For context, you can find the map showing the location of the Wendy’s and the surrounding area here. As you can see, the left turn lane here is rather short, and it is easy to imagine this turning into a bottleneck for people trying to go straight or turn right onto the left lane of Cleveland street during periods of heavy traffic. Recently, a change was made to this intersection to increase the length of the left turn lane. This might alleviate whatever bottleneck might be going on here, but at the same time it also makes it impossible to make a left turn into the Wendy’s. After the jump, take a look at just how much more difficult a few chunks of concrete on the road have made it to get to the Wendy’s.
This overhead view shows roughly where the new concrete lane dividers have been placed (you can see the old ones on the picture.) As you can see, this more than doubles the length of the left turn lane onto 160th, but it also blocks left turns from the westbound lanes into either the Wendy’s or the business (a hair salon) next door. Not only that, but the driveway to the North (which leads to a shopping center) is effectively cut off from being able to make the left turn onto Redmond Way as well. In theory you could go around the lane divider, but in practice you probably wouldn’t be able to do this if there was any significant amount of traffic in either direction, and I suspect that you’d also get yourself a ticket if a police officer saw you do it. The shopping center has another driveway on 160th which eastbound traffic can use, so this isn’t too big an issue for them. On the other hand, the Wendy’s doesn’t have this option, so the only way you’re going to be able to get there is to somehow approach it from the other direction. And how would this be done?
Looks like you’re going to be taking the long way around. In order to get back around to a point where you can get onto eastbound Redmond Way and turn into the Wendy’s, you would have to take this circuitous route that adds an extra 1.2 miles of driving. Of course, most people probably won’t have the patience for this, and are probably going to find somewhere to turn around instead. The two closest options for a turnaround would be either the small office complex at the intersection of 159th, or the parking lot of the KFC across the intersection from there. The parking lot of the KFC is in bad enough shape as is, and I suspect that they wouldn’t be particulatly happy to have people cutting through there all day in order to go give their business to the competition. Going into the office complex parking lot to turn around would be less likely to perturb the neighbors, but it would require you to wait at what could be a rather lengthy red light to make the left turn back onto Redmond Way. Either way, I’m sure someone would frown upon their driveways being used to make the turnaround. One other option (which I suspect is probably the most frequently used one, and the one I ended up using) would be to make a U-turn on 159th, then turn right from there back onto Redmond Way. I’m pretty sure this would also be considered illegal if a police officer saw it. Of course, no matter how you do this, you’re going to be doing some extra driving and possibly risking a ticket in order to make what used to be a simple left turn into the restaurant driveway. (Edit: One thing that I should note here is that this particular satellite image is somewhat out of date. The shopping center you see on 159th has since been torn down, and is currently being redeveloped as condos. At the time this picture was taken this would have been another option to turn around, but it is currently a fenced-off construction site.)
Of course, if you already know that you can’t make a left turn here anymore, you can take a shortcut by turning left onto Leary Way to get to 159th. This will cut the distance required to get there from the starting point shown to a little less than half a mile extra (0.74 miles total) compared to the direct route you used to be able to take (0.28 miles.)
Then when you’ve gotten your food, there’s also the little issue of getting back to work or home before your food gets cold. If you’re trying to get back onto westbound Redmond Way, you’re in for a bit of extra driving that way as well, as you can see above (although to be fair, this was the case even before this traffic revision was made . There isn’t nearly as much extra driving involved here, but it’s still an extra 0.36 miles. On the other hand, if you can get to the left turn lane that started this whole mess you can get onto 160th, turn into the Redmond Center Driveway and come back around to get on westbound Redmond Way, but I seriously doubt you could manage to pull that one off if there was any significant amount of traffic around. More likely you’ll have to settle for the right lane, then have to quickly cut over a lane on Cleveland Street in order to make the turn onto Brown Street, and hope you can find an opening to make the turn back onto Redmond Way. This would probably be easier to do if you went back to Leary Way, but that requires more driving, and possibly waiting at two extra stoplights.
Although I tend to be somewhat skeptical about the whole Global Warming hysteria going on these days, from a practical standpoint it would seem that you’d want people to be doing less driving here than more. I would be interested to know which would have more impact: People waiting at the stoplight for an extra minute or two while trying to get to 160th or 161st, or people having to drive an extra 1.2 miles to get to somewhere that used to be a simple left turn into a driveway?