Thursday, May 21, 2009

I-5 Mailbag

Every day I get a few e-mails and messages from drivers about the pavement repair work we’re doing on I-5 in Seattle. Tom from Greenlake writes, “My drive in downtown Seattle is finally smooth and quiet.”

Yay! We love hearing from happy drivers. The pavement on I-5 in King County is more than 40 years old. It’s lasted twice as long as engineers thought it would. Cracked and rutted concrete are telltale signs of it being 20 years overdue for a do-over.

Since February we’ve worked nights and weekends replacing hundreds of cracked concrete panels and ground out miles of rutted and bumpy pavement.

Drivers also are noticing that it is taking awhile for crews to finish the work.

Janet from West Seattle says, “Your crews have been out here
night after night. It looks like you started to grind the pavement, but why is it taking so long to finish the work?”

It’s true. If you’ve driven the six mile stretch of I-5 between the University District and Shoreline, you’ve probably noticed some sections of the highway have been ground down, and some sections haven’t. It does look as if we started to grind the pavement but haven’t gotten around to finishing the work.

Truth is we’re right on track to finish the project on time.

It’s like mowing a lawn row after row, only this lawn is 72 feet wide and six miles long – in both directions!

Each 12-foot lane requires crews to make several passes with the 4-foot grinder in order to grind the whole width of the lane.

Grinding the surface of I-5 not only makes for a smoother ride, it improves traction. Grinding also helps improve drainage on the highway so there is less standing water on the surface when it rains.

You can rest assured that we are still on schedule. We promise to finish all of the I-5 pavement repair work by the end of the summer. And trust me: it will be worth the wait.

Want to know more? Check out our common questions site and the I-5 Pavement Repair project page.


The Geezer said...

Well, you get emails from me, but I guess I am not quotable, so didn't get mentioned in the blog article.

I have one for you. Yes, the new panels are nice, yes the grinding is nice, and it is interesting to look out the side window at the interesting flattened aggregate in the next lane, while I am stopped in traffic all the time. The Geez is easily amused, I guess.

However, I notice many cracks of considerable size still there. I know water gets in there and freezes and raises Cain with the road.

Howcome you don't slap some hot tar in those you aren't going to replace, throw some sand over it, and let those "not quite bad enough" ones last a bit longer?


The Geezer

Anonymous said...

These new ground down sections might be great for cars, but they are deathtrap for motorcycles. Way to go WADOT!

Broch Bender said...

Hi Geezer,
Nice to see you again :)

We considered sealing up the cracks on I-5 as part of the I-5 pavement repair project.

However, when we looked into it further we realized that sealing the cracks was not the primary problem. We decided to use our limited funding towards replacing the worst of the worst concrete panels – the ones that were actually on their way to becoming rubble.

Freezing temperatures mixed with rain can cause ice to build up inside the cracks on the highway. That doesn’t happen too often on I-5 for two reasons.

First, we typically don’t get too many cold snaps in Seattle that would cause water to pool and freeze.

Second, our highways are well designed to drain out any water that gets beneath the concrete.


Broch Bender said...

Thanks for you comment, Anonymous.

WSDOT is very concerned for the safety of all motorists on the road. Abrupt ridges and grooves can pose a safety risk to motorcyclists.

Grinding the lanes on I-5 in Seattle is a work in progress. We are in the process of grinding the pavement uniformly across all lanes. Until all of the pavement is ground, it is common to see the grooved pavement end abruptly in places.

We encourage motorcyclists to drive with caution.

Our crews placed several “motorcycles use extreme caution,” and “grooved pavement” signs along the sections of I-5 that are still an active construction zone.

As an added precaution, we are looking into putting more of these signs along the highway.


Anonymous said...

Great job WSDOT! I have driven I-5 multiple times and I have definitely heard the improvement and felt a smoother ride. It's great to see our tax dollars at work.

However, I've heard that some of the newly placed panels are beginning slightly crack and have felt a significant bump NB I-5 near Dearborn where it seems there is a new panel placed. This panel almost seems like a mini speed bump of sorts.. Any answers you could provide? Thanks.

Broch Bender said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thank you for the compliment, I am glad to hear you are enjoying the highway more.

You are right, there is a patch of rough pavement on northbound I-5 near Dearborn Street. We plan to grind these panels smooth in early June.

Crews used rapid set concrete in this section (I-90 at Dearborn Street). The benefit to using rapid set concrete is that it takes much less time to pour and cure the panels.

Less time pouring and curing concrete panels means crews can finish the work faster, and open the road to traffic sooner.

The downside to rapid set is that sometimes it cures too quickly and can leave a rough surface. We've ground down most of the rough sections caused by rapid set concrete, and will finish up in June.


Anonymous said...

Personally I don't see any issue with the ground pavement except a smoother ride and decreased stopping distances on my motorcycle.

WSDOT and your contractor is doing a great job in my opinion.

As to the Geezers idea about sand and tar, that is not something any motorcyclist likes to see on the road. Hot tar strips like those found on county roads are extremely dangerous, and sand only belongs on the beach, just ask Mayor Nickels & Seattle DOT.

Jason said...

The pavement feels great! Good job WSDOT!

Just a question though, is there a way to color the concrete so it's darker? I understand aesthetics isn't the priority here, but smoother-looking and darker concrete will make lanes much easier to see, especially in sections that don't use plastic pavement markings.

Maybe acid treatment?

Mark said...

For the love of G__, put up some TRAFFIC SIGNS WARNING PEOPLE about interchanges being closed before the interchange is arrived at. I just spent 45 minutes stuck in traffic becuse the signs were ONLY at the interchange.

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