Thursday, May 4, 2017

Navigating I-5 and other warm weather construction: you need more than a compass

by Lisa Van Cise

George Harrison may have said it best when he sang, “Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.” I think we’re all exhausted by the gray, wet months we’ve endured since October. Now that we’re seeing signs of sun, we can’t wait to get out and enjoy the rays.

But nothing puts a damper on a warm-weather outing than being stopped by traffic backups and lane closures. Unfortunately, summer is the season for construction projects as much of our work requires predictably dry weather.
A major repaving project on northbound I-5 in King County will replace several aging and cracked panels like this.

One of the bigger projects underway is #ReviveI5, the northbound I-5 pavement preservation project between Kent and Seattle, which will require six weekends of lane closures. If you are not prepared to adjust your weekend drive, be prepared to crawl through some potentially hefty delays. With about 100,000 vehicles using this section of freeway each day, we need help from drivers to ease the added pressure from closing lanes on this major north-south corridor.

How can I avoid the backups?
I’m so glad you asked. Think about what you do to prepare for your weekday commute. It’s important to stay engaged to find the best (read: quickest) way to reach your destination. Check our mobile app, our traffic map, follow us on Twitter, tune into local news, check your bus routes, tell a friend, etc. It might not be common practice to use those tools during the weekend, but it should be.
Summer construction on northbound I-5 in King County could lead to some significant traffic congestion but some planning will help drivers work around it.

So here are some tips on getting the most out of your trips:
  • Be flexible.
    Consider leaving early in the morning or later in the evening during the weekend construction work. Sure, some of your trips adhere to more specific events like a curtain time, reservation or first pitch, so this isn’t always an option. But if you can change your schedule, it may save you some time sitting in traffic.
  • Find a friend.
    Drivers should consider carpooling or using transit to help avoid congestion when possible during northbound I-5 construction closures.
    This is the perfect time to grab a buddy or two. Find someone else who needs to travel and do it together. The fewer vehicles on I-5, the shorter the delays.
  • Think outside the box.
    Scared, unsure or uneducated about public transportation? Try something new. Hop on the light rail, take the bus, or look into a vanpool.
  • Pack your patience.
    Have snacks, water, entertainment for the kids and perhaps a few breathing exercises in your traveling toolbox. Sitting in traffic is worse when you’re hungry (and the “are we there yet!?” chirps coming from the back seat don’t help)!
Know before you go
No matter your choice, remember that knowledge is power. Spring and summer construction can and will create backups and delays, but with the help of drivers, we can get through this as pain free as possible.

This is the third installment of a four-part series on highway preservation work starting this month on northbound I-5 from Kent to Seattle. The others are:
Relieving the aches and pains of an aging I-5
How do you rehabilitate nearly 22 miles of I-5?