I-90 bridge to close for Seafair jets

Thursday, July 24, 2014

by Bart Treece

After a one-year break, some old friends have booked a return flight. The skies above Seattle will again be the playground for the F/A 18 Blue Angels of Seafair. This of course means the Interstate 90 floating bridge between the Emerald City and Mercer Island will be closed periodically for safety precautions. In other words: no drivers, cyclists or walkers.

Courtesy: US Navy
Courtesy: Patriots Jet Team

The Federal Aviation Administration requires a safety zone below the area where both the Blue Angels and the Patriots Jet Team practice and show-off for captivated crowds. This zone, we call “the box,” covers part of Lake Washington and the floating bridges - hence the closure.

Airshow Safety Zones
With the Blue Angels back in the Seafair lineup, both directions of I-90, (including the mainline and the express lanes) will be closed between I-5 in Seattle and Island Crest Way on Mercer Island.

Here’s the closure schedule:

  • Thursday, July 31: 9:45 a.m. - noon; 1:15 - 2:40 p.m. (practice) 
    • Express lanes closed from 9:45 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. 
  • Friday, Aug. 1: 12:15 p.m. - 2:40 p.m., (practice) 
    • Express lanes closed from 12:15 to 2:40 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Aug. 2: 12:15 p.m. - 2:40 p.m., (full show) 
    • Express lanes closed from 12:15 to 2:40 p.m. 
  • Sunday, Aug. 3: 12:15 p.m. - 2:40 p.m., (full show) 
    • Express lanes closed from 12:15 to 2:40 p.m.

Additionally, several ramps to I-90 will be closed during these times.

SR 520 floating bridge
The State Route 520 floating bridge will remain open for traffic and tolls will be collected according to the rate schedule. There will be no boat openings while the I-90 bridge is closed. You can expect heavier traffic on SR 520 and other routes between Seattle and the Eastside. To help keep traffic moving throughout Seafair weekend, the east navigation channel will be open to boats up to 58 feet tall which should reduce the number of marine openings.

Regardless of where you travels take you Seafair weekend, be sure to plan your trips beforehand and know before you go.

#I90to1 by the numbers

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

By Afternoon Traffic Gal, aka Harmony Haveman Weinberg

Three weekdays down and just one more to go as we each continue to do our part by adjusting our driving/biking/riding/busing habits during the westbound I-90 lane closures to replace two worn out expansion joints.

WSDOT engineers released the latest traffic volumes on I-90 that show just how the commute looked each day this week so far and compared it to averages taken earlier this month.

Check out the graph below and follow the RED line for Monday, the GREEN line for Tuesday and the PURPLE line for Wednesday up until noon. The BLUE line shows the typical average times and volumes when all lanes are open on westbound I-90. As you read the graph you can see drivers who took westbound I-90 through the construction zone have consistently left earlier each day this week than they usually do. Many drivers found alternate routes or changed up their travel plans all together to avoid getting caught in a major backup.

This graph shows travel time comparisons for the first three commutes of #I90to1 against last week's westbound I-90 commute, which is in grey. With this we can tell that drivers are adjusting their trips with the peaks periods beginning earlier in the day. This helps keep traffic moving through the work zone.

We credit all commuters for helping with #I90to1! Let’s keep it up! We are almost finished!

~ Afternoon Traffic Gal

Here it comes – better access for SR 167 HOT lanes

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Laura Johnson

We’ll be returning the SR 167 HOT lanes to the
original single line striping
Current SR 167 HOT lanes with the double line striping
The HOT lanes have been around for six years – can you believe it? If you haven’t used them, you’ve likely driven by them. One thing that makes people hesitate to use them is that you can only get in and out of the lanes at the sections with dashed lines. This raises questions like: What if I can’t get out when I need to? What if I miss my exit? With my sense of direction, who knows where I’d end up? Well, with some new changes, you might just think about trying them soon.

The most frequent feedback we’ve heard about the HOT lanes is that people don’t like the limited access. We’re listening to this feedback, and starting the night of July 28, crews will be out grinding off the inside stripe of the double white line – the line that keeps you from getting in and out of the HOT lane at any old spot you want. They’ll be painting over the dashed lines, and the end result will be a single white stripe between the regular lanes and the HOT lane. So like an HOV lane, you can enter and exit wherever you want. When you’ve got a safe gap in traffic, of course.

They’ll still be HOT lanes – people who drive alone will still have to pay the toll, and carpools, vanpools, buses and motorcycles will still be able to use the lanes for free. This will just make it easier to get in and out of the lane.

I’ve heard some people are concerned about the safety of this change. But as I mentioned, the access will be just like an HOV lane, and we have those all over the place with no major problems. We’ll be testing how the new access works in a study that goes along with this project. It’s actually pretty cool because the Federal Highway Administration gave us money to implement and study this, and our study could affect HOT lanes around the country.

When the striping work begins, you’ll be able to read about it on our construction updates website.  So watch out for nighttime lane closures and work on SR 167 between Renton and Auburn for the next month or so. And watch for those single white stripes to appear – freedom!

#I90to1 keeps on truckin'

by Bart Treece

Something has been missing from the morning commutes this week, where westbound I-90 has been reduced to a single lane near Bellevue Way for expansion joint replacement. Traffic has moved relatively smoothly so it’s only natural to ask, “Where are the foreboding traffic tie-ups the clairvoyants of the commute have dubbed, ‘Carpocalypse?’”

Click to view a Storify from today's tweets

The smooth sailing on the expressway and throughout the Eastside and Seattle area can be attributed to you, the commuter. You are doing your part in keeping regional traffic moving during construction. The proof is in the numbers. If you’re ready to get your inner traffic geek on, here you go.

Follow the red line on this graph which shows the commute beginning earlier on Monday, and then holding steady throughout the day, effectively spreading the traffic. Drivers left for work earlier, with the single westbound I-90 lane carrying nearly double the number of typical vehicles in the 4 a.m. hour. By 7 a.m., the peak hour of diversion, westbound I-90 was carrying nearly 60 percent fewer cars and trucks. 

With folks diverting to other routes or staying off the road, it allowed drivers to squeeze into a single lane approaching the construction zone. Travel times from Issaquah to Seattle peaked at 35 minutes. So, even though it looked like a small backup approaching, it was still a slog.

The toughest part of the construction work is welding the two halves of the expansion joints that equal 82 feet. This began at 6 a.m. today, and could take up to 30 hours. After the work passes a series of tests, concrete will be poured in to seal the joint and will need time to harden. To get an idea of why this work needed to happen, here's a look at one of the expansion joints the contractor pulled out.

These circles show the cracks in the steel, and there's not much keeping it together.

With previous closures, we've seen drivers return to their old habits after a few days, which results in longer travel times and bigger backups. Hopefully, everyone will keep doing what they've been doing so come Friday, life can return back to normal.

I-90 closure: Work progresses, weekday traffic to be tested

Sunday, July 20, 2014

by Mike Allende

Our big westbound I-90 expansion joint replacement project started Friday night and work throughout the weekend has gone well with the project remaining right on schedule.

As of Sunday morning, contractor crews had replaced half of two of the huge expansion joints at the East Channel Bridge and were putting down concrete over the new joints. Still to come are the removal of the other half of the old joints, installation of new joints, a 30-hour welding job, and more concrete pouring.

Concrete sealing part of the new expansion joint

The concrete needs about 12 hours to cure but workers will be monitoring it this afternoon. The concrete needs to reach a strength of 2,500 psi (pounds per square inch) for traffic to go over it. Whenever that happens, we’ll be switching the work zone to the other side of the highway to work on the other half of the joints. That is scheduled to happen around 9 p.m. Monday morning drivers will see traffic moving through the work zone in the Phase 2 configuration.

Phase 2 - Monday - Friday morning

From a traffic standpoint, things have been great! We saw no significant slowdowns on westbound I-90 Saturday despite the Sounders match and traffic continued to flow freely on Sunday for people headed into Seattle for the Bite of Seattle or other events. Travel times from Issaquah to Bellevue were about 11 minutes, and about 16 minutes to Seattle.

Monday, of course, is going to be a different story. Even with some people adjusting their plans, telecommuting, taking vacation, we’re going to see significant backups. There’s no way around it. Definitely consider alternate routes but even with that, leave as early as possible. I can’t stand stressing out being late, so leave early. People have been asking for advice and leaving early is really the best I can give you. This will also affect other travel routes, such as I-405, SR 520 and even I-5 in Seattle. Your weekday commute will begin earlier and last longer.

#I90to1 Tweets
We’re adjusting our scheduled here in the Traffic Management Center as well. Morning Guy will be in at 5 a.m. and is on point until 2 p.m. monitoring traffic and updating people on our @wsdot_traffic Twitter handle about what’s going on westbound I-90 (and throughout the region). Afternoon Gal takes over at 2 p.m. and will be here until 8 p.m. all week. If you’re a Twitter user please check in with us as we want to get you the best, most timely information to help with your commute. Use the hashtag #I90to1.

And don’t forget, you can also find travel times and check out our traffic cameras and real-time traffic map so you have an idea of what you’re headed into. This work week is going to be a challenge but stick with us and we’ll keep getting information out so you know exactly what’s going on. Want to know more? Check out the I-90 Survival Guide, and our recent blog post on the I-90 express lanes

Featured Flickr Photo

see caption
Lower Monumental State Airport

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