Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What's happening during the full SR 520 bridge closure this weekend?

By Roger Thompson

We’re gearing up for the fourth weekend full closure of the SR 520 bridge this month. Wait. What? Another closure?

The main reason streets or highways are closed to traffic for construction is so crews can get the work done more quickly, more efficiently, and more safely with fewer disruptions to motorists. Sometimes crews can perform their work by closing just part of a road. Other times, it’s necessary to shut down a highway entirely – again, to get the work done more quickly, efficiently, and safely.

In other words, get in and get out!

Another reason is to take advantage of the longer daylight and good weather we often have in Western Washington during the summer. It’s great for backyard barbecues – but it’s also great for getting a lot of outdoor construction done. Especially when it involves pouring concrete or placing asphalt. And there’s a whole lot of that going on with the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program.

During June’s four weekend closures of SR 520, crews are pouring some 2,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the roadway deck for the new West Connection Bridge on Lake Washington (it will connect the new floating bridge with the highway’s existing lanes in Seattle). Other crews, working around the clock during the four closures, are placing asphalt for the new, six-lane highway being built on SR 520 between Evergreen Point Road and I-405.
Crews use a closed SR 520 highway and a barge as
work platforms to pump concrete for the roadway
deck of SR 520’s new West Connection Bridge.

Another reason for having four weekend highway closures in a five-week span is the pressing nature of the SR 520 construction schedule. Urgency is driving our weekend closures for the highway’s  Eastside Transit and HOV Project. Our contractor crews are in the home stretch of completing the Eastside’s improvements, including new transit stops in the highway’s median, lidded overpasses, roundabout interchanges, direct-access ramps for buses and carpools, and a dedicated transit/carpool lane in both directions. All this work is critical to opening the improved Eastside segment of SR 520 later this summer.
A paving crew places asphalt on the
highway’s new six-lane Eastside corridor. 

Crews also are working to complete the West Connection Bridge in a couple of months so that other crews can move forward with the next phase of building the new floating bridge: anchoring into position and joining together the bridge’s massive concrete pontoons, building the roadway deck, then, in early 2016, connecting it to the fixed-bridge structures on either side of Lake Washington and opening the new road to traffic.

Did we need to schedule four full-weekend closures in such a short time frame? Unfortunately, yes. The fact is there is never a good time to shut down a highway. But summer, as noted earlier, is when certain highway work can best be done. With so many community festivals, sporting events and other popular weekend happenings in the greater Seattle area, the number of “available” weekends for highway closures gets whittled down pretty fast.

More SR 520 closures will be needed this summer as we proceed with all this construction. Check our SR 520 Highway Closures page for the latest in closure information.


Anonymous said...

It is clear from all of the closures of 520 that a much smaller capacity bridge could have been built, as it seems that we can do without the bridge on a regular basis on the weekends, and an underutilization of the current floating bridge on the weekdays. A significant amount of east bound traffic coming from I-5 exits at Montlake.

WSDOT said...

We’ve observed and commuters feel the impacts of the SR 520 corridor’s heavy congestion during both morning and evening peak traffic, which typically lasts three hours or more. When all planned improvements to SR 520 are constructed, the six-lane highway, as studies show, will reduce peak-hour travel times between Seattle and Bellevue by up to 25 minutes for buses and carpools, and up to 31 minutes for vehicles in the general-purpose lanes. The current floating bridge also is vulnerable to windstorms and hollow-column fixed bridges are vulnerable to earthquakes. The new bridges will be stronger, able to withstand more severe storms and earthquakes.

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