Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Weekend lane reductions on I-5 are worth the pain

By Tom Pearce

I built a deck for my house a few years ago. With a project like that you can take your time, buy your materials piecemeal and get several deliveries, upping the cost. Maybe take a month or two to complete the work, so your yard's a mess for a while. Or maybe you're like me – buy everything at once, get one big delivery to save money and attack it with 10- to 12-hour days.

Whether you're building a deck or refurbishing the region's major interstate, the principles are the same. You can take your time and increase the cost, or you can plan ahead, power through and save money.

We are using an aggressive schedule on our #reviveI5 project on northbound I-5 between South 260th Street in Kent and the Duwamish River in Tukwila. That means working weekends with lane closures. We've paved several layers of asphalt on four miles between SR 516 in SeaTac and South 170th Street in Tukwila during five weekends since the start of June. We have one more weekend for paving scheduled for Aug. 11-14, weather permitting.

Big savings
We know it creates backups when we reduce northbound I-5 to two lanes from 8 p.m. Friday night to 5 a.m. Monday morning. But consider this:
  • One weekend-long lane reduction for paving equals 30 nights of lane closures.
  • We have six weekends for paving – that's 180 nights of work – six months.

Paving a long section during a weekend saves money – and lots of time.

And remember, we can't pave any old night. We need dry conditions and temperatures above 45 degrees to pave. That could mean two to three years to finish paving if we didn't use weekend closures. That would tie up crews and equipment and run up costs. Instead, we'll finish paving in a couple of months this summer.

Expansion joints need weekends too
In addition to paving, we need four weekends to replace eight expansion joints: four at the Interurban Avenue overpass and four at the Duwamish River Bridge. We'll replace the Duwamish River joints the weekends of Aug. 18-21 and 25-28. We're still working to schedule when we will replace the expansion joints at Interurban Avenue.
Replacing expansion joints during a long weekend lane closure is much more cost-efficient.

Like paving, we could replace these large expansion joints using only overnight closures. People can do just about anything if they put their minds to it – and are willing to dedicate enough time and spend enough money. However, doing expansion joints that way would create weeks or even months of traffic disruptions, the finished product would not be as strong and the cost could be ghastly.

The end result
When I was out there sweating away those long days building that deck, I'd sometimes think, "Ugh, why am I doing this?" A few days after I finished and was eating dinner with my family on my new deck, I thought about the money I'd saved and realized I could still be in the middle of construction.

The short-term pain of finishing in a quick, cost-efficient manner is definitely worth it.