Piecing together the road construction traffic puzzle

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

By Bart Treece

The name of the game is to keep traffic moving safely. But when there are several construction and maintenance projects that need to get on the road, the job gets complicated.

There really isn’t a “good” time to close part of entire stretches of highway in a large metropolitan area. However, the work needs to get done. Much of it is important for maintaining and preserving our aging infrastructure, like replacing bridge expansion joints (pdf 937 kb) on I-5 or patching the deck of the Ship Canal Bridge. Ignoring these issues would eventually mean unscheduled emergency closures that could impact your regular route to work. We all saw how badly traffic was snarled when a damaged joint needed repairs ASAP last week. This is why we try to schedule these closures when it affects the least amount of people, at night if possible. Some projects need more time, such as when there’s concrete involved which needs time to cure before its strong enough to hold the weight of hundreds of thousands of vehicles. That leaves the weekend, when fewer folks hit the roads.
White board showing Seattle events/closures
The white board where closures are initially
coordinated with large Seattle events and holidays

Looking at only weekends, we try to avoid four during the summer: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Seafair and Labor Day weekend. This adds up to a whole month without weekend closures because we know those are big travel times. We’re now left trying to juggle projects on competing corridors, such as SR 520 and I-90 or SR 99, I-5 and I-405. It doesn’t take a traffic engineer to know that closing lanes in the same direction on north/south or east/west routes at the same time would be a very bad thing. Also add into the mix that there are several events including Mariners, Sounders, Husky and Seahawks football game traffic we try to take into consideration. We can’t forget weather, which isn’t always predictable in the ‘Pugetopolis’ region. The threat of liquid sunshine can push a weather-sensitive project back to another weekend.

With projects on every major route planned this summer, there’s not that many weekends left. When possible, we try to combine work to avoid spreading project impacts further along than needed.

This weekend, June 6 - 9

Region-wide traffic will be impacted by the work happening in Seattle this weekend. To keep people moving, we need your help by combining or postponing nonessential trips, carpooling or continue taking transit in order to avoid major backups.

Seattle area construction map

Closures:
  • SR 520 - Both directions of State Route 520 will be closed between Montlake Boulevard and Interstate 405 from 11 p.m. Friday, June 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 9. During the closure, contractor crews will demolish an existing barrier on the west side of the floating bridge that will eventually tie into the West Connection Bridge now under construction.
  • I-5 - The two right lanes of northbound I-5 at South Spokane Street will be closed to replace aging bridge expansion joints from 10 p.m. Friday, June 6 until 5 a.m. Monday, June 9.
  • I-5 - A single lane of northbound I-5 near Interurban will be closed for guardrail repair from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday, June 7.
  • I-5 - Saturday and Sunday, two northbound lanes across the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge will be closed daily from 3:30 to 11 a.m. for deck patching. 
  • SR 99 - Southbound State Route 99 from Denny Way to South Spokane Street will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday, June 6 until 5 a.m. Monday, June 9. During the closures, crews will shift southbound traffic onto a new alignment through the SR 99 tunnel project site. 

Traffic tools

Don’t let road construction detour your weekend plans. To help you navigate through the closures and congestion, check out the traffic tools that WSDOT offers.

15 comments:

Jamie Holter said...

Love the white board!

Anonymous said...

Will 520 Eastbound from I5 to the Montlake exit be opened this weekend?

WSDOT said...

The SR 520 bridge closure is in both directions from Montlake Blvd to I-405, but you will be able to exit at Montlake.

Anonymous said...

Why did some of these closures not happen next weekend? I know next weekend is Father's Day but to have this I5 N and 520 closure at the same time is ridiculous. Last time this happened my commute time doubled. Father's Day is a minor holiday. At least 520 could have been shifted to that weekend to offset the Aurora traffic that would be coming onto I5 N.

WSDOT said...

We have to look long-term for closure opportunities when scheduling construction work. The three holidays we look to avoid this time of year are Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Next weekend is the UW Commencement ceremony and the Mariners will be playing in Seattle all weekend. Traffic will be heavy through the area.

Taking those three holidays and major summer special events in Seattle into account, there are a limited number of weekends available for construction work. Combining the closures reduces the number of weekends with construction closures over the summer. In the end, we have to take advantage of the dry weather to make progress on these projects and to maintain state highways. There just isn't a good time to close part of all of a highway, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing the best you can and making it possible to stay up to date with the info you post. You can't please all the people all the time and you do a good job considering what you're up against. I appreciate being able to obtain the updated information so I may plan ahead. Thank you!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I saw a sign for the I5 N on ramp from Michigan/Corson in Georgetown that said the ramp would be closed all weekend, but nothing about it here on the site. Is this in conjunction with the lane closures up to Spokane, or did I read the sign wrong?

Anonymous said...

Just need to take a moment to share kudos to WSDOT for exceptional communications--from insightful blog posts to a hugely-informative (and often witty) Twitter feed to the Flickr galleries. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Anonymous said...

Is the 84th Ave exit heading East on 520 going to be closed this coming work week, 6/9-13?

WSDOT said...

Yes, the 84th Avenue exit from eastbound 520 will be closed. There's more information on the SR 520 Orange page: http://bit.ly/QGAuQs.

WSDOT said...

We didn't have any ramps closed as a result of the work on I-5 this weekend, but traffic was definitely slow around Michigan due to the lane closures.

Neil Makar said...

What I want to know is why the abysmal traffic pattern from I-90/I5 to the ferry? Why are we forced
1. To go through about t6 lights, just to turn around and go back through two?
2. Bypass two available turnaround points ("Road Closed") before we are allowed to turn around on Seneca?
3. We are forced to travel through the disembarking ferry traffic TWICE before we get back to the entry we passed, sometimes 20 minutes ago!
4. Finally, we are forced to spend LOTS of time under the Alaska Way viaduct, we we are being told is ripe for collapse. My fear is to be stuck under that thing waiting on traffic when the Big One hits, and I become a smear on the ground.

This pattern makes absolutely no sense, so I would like someone to explain it in a way that makes me say "Oh, OK."

WSDOT said...

In 2012, traffic on Alaskan Way was moved underneath the viaduct to make way for SR 99 Tunnel Project construction. An additional traffic shift occurred in 2013 to accommodate construction for the Elliott Bay Seawall Project. Throughout construction, WSDOT and SDOT are working together to maintain access to Colman Dock for all modes of traffic. In order to accommodate ferry holding lanes within this limited space, vehicles must turn onto Spring Street and pass in front of the ferry terminal to access Colman Dock.

Beginning October 2014, work to replace the viaduct and the seawall will change how drivers access Colman Dock. WSDOT and SDOT are currently working together on the design for this new configuration. Updated information and maps will be posted to our website’s Colman Dock Access page when they are available.

Washington State Ferries personnel direct egress traffic at Marion Street or Yesler Way, depending on the volume of traffic. If you would like to talk to WSF directly about this or other issues, please call them at 206-464-6400. If you have questions about the current configuration along the waterfront, you can contact the Seawall team directly via email at seawall@waterfrontseattle.org or call their project hotline at 206-618-8584.

While construction along the waterfront is ongoing, we ask that drivers allow plenty of extra time, anticipate additional congestion on Alaskan Way and check traffic conditions before they travel.

The Seattle traffic page contains updated road information including links to traffic cameras.

The Traffic Highlights page chronicles closures and issues affecting travelers in and around the SR 99 corridor.

Anonymous said...

oh, ok.

 

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