Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A busy spring weekend in King and Snohomish Counties

By Andrea E. Flatley

Ours is a big state, with a lot of highway to both take care of and monitor. It's vital that we keep you updated on what's going on on the roads so you can make informed decisions about traveling, and so we have a group of communicators whose job it is to let you know before you go. We get quite passionate about our job and our projects, often feeling like 'ours' should take priority over the others (don't worry - we let you know about all of them). That's what happened this week and why you get to hear from me about an SR 410 bridge closure, northbound I-5 lane reductions and southbound I-5 overnight closure.

I don't have a construction barrel in the race as we ramp up for this busy April weekend of highway improvement work. I just want you to know about everything that's going on in these two heavily traveled counties so you can plan ahead. Here are the biggies, from south to north.

SR 410 White River Bridge repair
We start way down at the King-Pierce county line between Enumclaw and Buckley. If you live in either of these two cities, chances are you've heard about this closure – but if you haven't, listen up! Starting at 10 p.m. on Friday, April 15 the White River Bridge on SR 410 will be closed until Saturday, April 23. That's a 24/7 closure for everyone, from cars/trucks to bikes and pedestrians. We know there is no easy detour – expect your trip to be at least 45 minutes if you need to go from Buckley to Enumclaw or vice versa.

Why will this take a week?
Based on extensive community feedback, a week-long closure in mid-April was proposed by government and business leaders during a meeting with WSDOT on Nov. 5. A routine bridge inspection last year found that an overheight vehicle struck the bridge. Since then, we've had a temporary repair in place but a permanent repair is needed to keep it open for the nearly 20,000 vehicles that use it each day. Repairing the overhead structure of the bridge is a complicated process that requires us to close the entire bridge for a week to get it done. In addition to the people who live in these communities, skiers and snowboarders who want to hit the slopes at Crystal could be affected. Expect traffic and delays along this route so please give yourself extra time to reach your destination.

A full 24/7 week-long closure of the SR 410 White River Bridge will allow us to repair the damage done by an over-height vehicle strike.

Snohomish County expansion joint replacement
Weather hasn't been our friend for the #SnoCoSqueeze project in Snohomish County between Everett and Marysville. Contractor crews are wrapping up the southbound work and starting this week they will restripe the northbound lanes to prepare for weekend lane reductions. Once this striping happens (it depends on the weather), lanes will be narrower than normal and speed limits reduced to 45 MPH. The narrowed lanes and reduced speed limit will remain in place for several weeks over the northbound I-5 Steamboat Slough and Ebey Slough bridges until the project wraps up in mid-June. When the weekend expansion joint replacement work begins on Friday, April 15 at 9:30 p.m., northbound lanes will be down to one lane overnight and two lanes Saturday and Sunday. Three narrow lanes will open to traffic 5 a.m. Monday, April 18.

There will be traffic delays but you can help minimize them by delaying non-essential trips and consider traveling in the early morning or later in the evening when traffic flow is lower. Even with changes to routines we expect backup and delays in this area to be similar to a weekday afternoon commute all weekend long. Tulip traffic has been busy into Mt. Vernon so expect it to be even more of a challenge this coming weekend. There's no ideal time to do this work but we're trying to get it done ahead of the busy summer season.

Expect some significant traffic delays on northbound I-5 in Snohomish County as work continues
to replace expansion joints on the Ebey Slough and Steamboat Slough bridges.

Tulalip Tribes interchange improvements
Just north of the #SnoCoSqueeze on I-5 at 116th Street Northeast in Marysville is a big Tulalip Tribes project. Work in ongoing to widen ramps, replace the existing overpass (you may have noticed that half of it was demolished last weekend) and adding turn lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks.

Tulalip Tribes are working closely with us as well as cities and counties around the area and are implementing this project in phases to improve traffic and reduce congestion. When finished, these improvements are expected to reduce crashes in this area by half and reduce vehicle delay by nine minutes during peak times. With 46 million tons of freight moving through this interchange daily, the improvements will also decrease the cost of moving goods around the region.

To continue this work, all lanes of southbound I-5 will be closed from 11:30 p.m. until 7 a.m. both Friday and Saturday nights. Both directions of 116th Street will also be closed as crews demolish the west side of the overpass. For I-5 drivers, the detour will just be an off-ramp to on-ramp detour back onto the interstate. The left lane of northbound I-5 will also be closed for the safety of travelers.
(insert 116th project photo – WS of overpass/interchange area)

Stay plugged in
It's a challenge trying to get all of our work done with as little traffic impact as possible. Sometimes, it's impossible to avoid and so we ask that you stay plugged in and know what to expect before heading out. Check our construction update website, follow us on Twitter and download the WSDOT app to stay updated, and we thank you for planning ahead and being patient as we get these projects done.