Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Plan ahead during our busy weekend of work on I-5 and I-90

By Tom Pearce

Ah, summer in Seattle. Mariners games.  Sounders matches. Getting away to the beach, the mountains or a park. All kinds of events around the region. And of course, road construction.

Sorry to slam on the brakes and interrupt those pleasant summer thoughts, but if you want to spend more time having fun and less time in traffic, heads up. We have three big projects this weekend, starting Friday night, June 2:
  • Testing in the I-90 tunnels in Mercer Island and Seattle.
  • Repaving on northbound I-5 from SR 516 to South 188th Street in SeaTac.
  • Repairs on the southbound I-5 Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle.
All this work coincides with a Mariners homestand throughout the weekend, The Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure Sunday morning and a Sunday night Sounders match at CenturyLink Field.

You can get to any of these events – all of them, if you're really ambitious – with a little bit of planning around our road work.

I-90 between Seattle and Bellevue
You've heard this one before. We are reducing I-90 to one lane and detouring traffic to the express lanes across Lake Washington overnight. This will allow crews to test the tunnel operations systems, uncover new signs and install final striping for the new HOV lanes. That means:
  • From 9 p.m. Friday until 9 a.m. Saturday, eastbound I-90 will reduce to a single lane at Rainier Avenue then traffic will be routed to the express lanes.
  • From 9 p.m. Saturday until 9 a.m. Sunday, westbound I-90 will reduce to a single lane at Bellevue Way then traffic will be routed to the express lanes.
On Sunday, permanent HOV lanes on I-90 across the lake will be in place, providing a more reliable trip between Issaquah and Seattle that doesn't depend on the direction of the express lanes.  With the HOV lanes open, the I-90 express lanes will close for good so Sound Transit can build its East Link light rail extension between Seattle and Redmond.

Biggest effects
If you're heading back to the Eastside after the Mariners game or another event in Seattle Friday night, plan ahead as we'll see congestion leaving the city. Taking transit or carpooling will help reduce regional congestion. Consider taking SR 520 or driving around the lake if possible, but expect congestion there too.

Sunday morning if you're heading to Seattle to Race for the Cure or anything else before 9 a.m., leave early or use alternate routes.
Our contractor crews will pave asphalt over the old concrete between SR 516 and the Southcenter area.

Northbound I-5 repaving in SeaTac
This is the first of six weekends when our contractor crews will close lanes to repave lanes between SR 516 and South 170th Street:
  • From 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, northbound I-5 will be down to two lanes at SR 516.
  • The SR 516 on-ramp to northbound I-5, the off- and on-ramps at Military Road and South 188th Street/Orillia Road will also be closed.
Think alternatives
We see backups anytime we reduce lanes of a major highway. Similar work last year on southbound I-5 in South King County produced 20- to 40-minute delays. Some ideas that may help:
  • Take transit – a bus or light rail allows you to relax and reduces the number of cars on the road.
  • Use alternative routes – SR 99, SR 509, SR 167 and I-405 can take you around the I-5 backups.
  • Avoid using I-5 late morning through the early evening. Going earlier or later can help you dodge the heaviest congestion.
Southbound I-5 Ship Canal Bridge
The deck has some small bad patches of concrete that we need to jackhammer out and repave. We'll start closing lanes at 2 a.m. early Saturday and Sunday mornings and start the noisiest work at 5 a.m. each day. On Saturday we'll work on the two right lanes and close the Northeast 45th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5. On Sunday we'll repair the two left lanes, and all ramps will remain open.

Plan ahead
The most important thing is, if you're traveling across the southbound Ship Canal Bridge Saturday or Sunday morning and you have to be somewhere on schedule, give yourself a cushion and leave early.

This really matters Sunday morning because our crews will still be at work when you're going to Race for the Cure. The Mariners' first pitch Sunday is at 1:10 p.m. and while our crews will be off the road by 10 a.m., the backups will linger. You can also try SR 99. Whatever you do, plan ahead.

We know we've planned a lot of work this weekend considering all the other events that are scheduled. But we have so many projects that need weekend hours, we have to work when we can. The only weekends that are off-limits this summer are June 10-11 for the University of Washington's graduation ceremonies and Aug. 5-6 for the Seafair boat races and Blue Angels. There may be work on every other weekend this summer as it's the only way we can finish this important work and keep traffic moving. Much of this work needs dry weather to be completed. We know it's not easy to get around with these closures, and we appreciate your patience.