Monday, April 18, 2016

After more than 50 years, I-5 getting a facelift and more

By Tom Pearce

Wear and tear are natural parts of aging for people, like an achy joint or skin that isn't as smooth as it once was. It's the same with our roads. Some sections of I-5 are more than 50 years old, and it shows. Some expansion joints and concrete panels are getting creaky and need replacing; ruts in the pavement need to be smoothed.

Worn lanes and rough seams are just a few of the issues on I-5.

Just like aging issues for people, on I-5 some of these concerns can be fixed without a lot of disruption, while others may require a surgical approach that takes more time. A short visit to the doctor for some Botox can help smooth the skin; nighttime lane closures for grinding can smooth ruts in the freeway. Getting a knee replacement involves a lot of work; so does replacing a bridge expansion joint.

When it comes to southbound I-5, we've already started a project to rejuvenate the freeway between the Duwamish River and South 320th Street in Federal Way. Work on this 13-mile section will take about 18 months to complete. Most of it will be fairly painless, with work occurring during overnight lane reductions.

Other parts will be a challenge. We need to reduce sections of southbound I-5 to two lanes on five weekends this summer, from 11 p.m. Fridays to 5 a.m. Mondays. The weekends are July 8-11, 15-18 and 22-25, and Aug. 12-15 and 19-22.

The weekend lane reductions are weather-dependent. They'll allow crews to:
  • Repave a section between SeaTac and Des Moines during the scheduled July weekends.
  • Replace expansion joints on the Duwamish River Bridge during the scheduled August weekends.

Replacing expansion joints, like this one between Everett and Marysville, requires a weekend to chip out the old concrete,
remove the old joint, put in the new joint and new concrete, which then needs about half a day to cure.

About 86,000 vehicles use this section of southbound I-5 daily in July and August. I'm not going to sugarcoat it – we're going to see southbound traffic backups on these weekends, starting in the morning, lasting throughout the day and into the evening. How big will they be? A lot of that is up to you, the drivers.

To keep things manageable, we need about half of the vehicles that use southbound I-5 to do something else. You'll still be able to get to your destinations, but think about doing it differently:
  • Use an alternate route like I-405, SR 167, SR 99 or SR 509.
  • Ride transit – King County Metro, Sound Transit or Link light rail.
  • Carpool.
  • Travel outside of peak hours.

We're working with south King County cities that will see increased traffic, as well as Sea-Tac Airport and Westfield Southcenter, to help spread the word to limit the delays. We'll also work with local media and use our project web page, the King County construction page, our blog, Twitter and Facebook to keep you informed. You can also download our mobile traffic app for the latest information on traffic.

This project is one of many that you'll see in the next several years to rehabilitate both directions of I-5 in the Seattle/King County area. We're committed to restoring I-5 and keeping our region moving. It's going to take a lot of effort and patience, but together we'll make it work.

Just like taking care of your body can keep you fit for a long life, restoring I-5 will keep our region's main highway healthy for decades to come.