When Allen Hendy told me our contractor was going to shut down I-5 for a girder setting, I looked at him like he was out of his mind and let loose a dignified: Excuzemewhat?!
Allen is the project manager for the Salmon Creek Interchange project. For nearly three years now, his team and our partners at Clark County Public Works have been overhauling local roads and the I-5/I-205 junction in Salmon Creek. We’re on the last (and most exciting!) phase of construction – building a new interchange at NE 139th Street to reduce traffic congestion and improve safety in the busy area.
But here’s the pinch. We’re setting girders – essentially piecing together the bridge’s backbone – and there are a dozen girders that need to be hoisted into place directly above I-5. The installation process will close I-5 from 11 p.m. Friday June 7, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 10. Here’s a look at the span where we’ll be working:
Unlike many girder settings, this location isn’t level. I-5 is higher than the surrounding ground, which means the cranes essentially have to park downhill – below the launch spot of the girders and far below the installation target on top of the bridge piers. This less-than-ideal setup limits the cranes’ lifting power.
To address this complication, crews will park a third crane on southbound I-5 to assist with a complicated pick-and-switch-and-lift process to install the girders. Imaging a track relay, but with a 165-foot concrete and steel baton, and three cranes instead of runners. It will be one of the most complicated and difficult settings we’ve ever done, and it will take up to three hours to install each girder.
All that to say: the only way to complete this task is with a full closure of I-5. (I get it now, Allen!) We’re working to coordinate detour routes, identify potential “trouble spots” where traffic is more likely to back up and find ways to maintain access for local traffic and emergency vehicles. But no matter what we do, the closure will have a ripple effect on traffic in the entire area and there’s a huge potential for traffic headaches – even nightmares.
Here’s how drivers can help avoid traffic nightmares:
- Don’t drive if you don’t have to.
- If you have to drive through Clark County during the weekend of June 7-10, then visit our website to figure out if your route will be impacted.
- Familiarize yourself with the detour routes. (Pro tip: I-205 is your best friend.)
- Expect traffic congestion and plan for delays – give yourself some extra time to reach your destination.
- And as always, use the WSDOT tools at your disposal to know before you go! Visit our travel alerts page, call 511 and download the WSDOT app to access real-time traffic info during the closure.