Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Full weekend I-90 closures back after summer break

By Mike Allende

**UPDATE Thursday, Oct. 8, 10:01 a.m.**: Due to expected rainy weather, the planned early closure of the I-90 express lanes for re-striping is postponed. The rest of the work will proceed as scheduled.

Remember back in May, when we said that our full directional detours of Interstate 90 across Lake Washington were going on summer vacation until October? Well. …take a look at the calendar.

That’s right, October is here and that means you’ll be seeing up to two of those I-90 weekend detours per month until May 2016, when we take another summer break. The first will be Oct. 9-12, when all westbound lanes will be detoured into the express lanes from 11 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

This is part of our I-90 Two-Way Transit and HOV Operations project. Other full weekend detours include eastbound on Oct. 23-26, Nov. 13-15, and Dec. 11-14 and westbound Dec. 4-7. The project is scheduled to be complete in mid-2017.

While we didn’t have any directional closures over the summer – we paused because of the large number of special events that time of year – our crews continued to work with nighttime closures to keep the project moving along.

Listening to you and making adjustments
As with our earlier closures, much of the work we’re doing is inside the two I-90 tunnels so drivers may not see a lot happening. Closing mainline I-90 allows our crews to work uninterrupted for the entire weekend, which will help us complete this work much faster than if we just did nighttime closures.

We learned some lessons from our first batch of these closures that we believe will help with traffic flow. For example, while Mercer Island traffic will continue to exit westbound I-90 at East Mercer Way, they will now have two main options at the top of the ramp: either turn left onto East Mercer Way or continue straight and re-enter westbound I-90 and exit at Island Crest Way.

For Seattle traffic, there will be two lanes exiting the express lanes at Rainier Avenue. To get the two westbound lanes out of the express lanes, there’s a bit of work that needs to be done including removing approximately 70 feet of barrier and restriping the express lanes exit to the outer roadway. In order to do this work, our contractor crews will close the express lanes at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9. They’ll also close the left lane on the westbound mainline near Rainier Avenue at 8:30 p.m. to restripe the transition out of the express lanes with the goal of having westbound I-90 down to one lane and into the express lanes by 11 p.m. on Friday.

Closing I-90 for a weekend allows workers and heavy machinery
to work unimpeded, helping advance the project’s timeline.

Early Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m. crews will begin reopening the westbound mainline at East Mercer Way while closing the express lanes to put back the barrier they removed earlier and restripe the express lanes. All mainline lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. and the express lanes will be open westbound by 6 a.m.

Adding new HOV lanes and getting I-90 ready for light rail
All this work will add capacity to I-90, including a new HOV lane in both directions between Seattle and Bellevue with direct access ramps for transit, carpools and vanpools. We’re also upgrading the safety and operations systems in the Mount Baker and Mercer Island tunnels including upgrading the fire suppression system, lighting and cameras, and modifying the tunnel ventilation systems. These upgrades are preparing the express lanes for Sound Transit’s East Link light rail extension from Seattle to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. The 14-mile project is set to open in 2023 and includes 10 new stations.

Workers are upgrading the lighting and fire suppression systems,
among other things, during our I-90 full weekend closures.

The work we’re doing this weekend will result in some significant congestion on I-90 and surrounding routes, so be sure to plan ahead. You can check our Seattle Area Traffic page for real-time traffic info, cameras and travel times. Our Northwest Construction page will list upcoming closures and Twitter users can follow @wsdot_traffic for information on traffic and closures.