Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lane closures a must for safe work zones

By Tom Pearce

"Why do you close all those lanes when you're not working?"

We've been asked this specific question quite a lot when it comes to our #ReviveI5 project on northbound I-5 in Kent, SeaTac and Tukwila.

While you may not see equipment or workers in a specific area, we want to reassure you that work is happening. Paving asphalt is a slow operation and we require a safe work zone for our crews.
While we pave, a lot of the work zone has nothing happening.

It takes several hours to pave a single lane four miles long. Then we need to go back and start over again on the next lane. During a weekend lane closure, we usually pave multiple layers. So while we pave, you'll see a lot of work zone where nothing is happening, but it's safer to keep the whole zone closed.
We need people to take out concrete, but while the new concrete is curing, they can leave.

Occasionally when "nothing is happening," we are letting concrete harden. In many places we need to remove old, broken concrete panels and pour new ones. Concrete doesn't need supervision to harden, so you won't see workers.

Our first consideration is always safety – for drivers, for our contractors, for our staff. On all projects, we need open space between where crews are working and traffic. The higher the speed of the traffic, the more room we need so crews have time to react if something happens.
Work starts with establishing a safe work zone, often
created by putting out traffic barrels.

For #ReviveI5, much of the work is paving, which is a moving operation. Crews set orange barrels to designate the work zone. It's challenging work – they are placing barrels within feet of moving vehicles – and it takes a couple of hours.

It's sensible to set up the entire work zone and leave it in place. Continually moving the barriers as the paving operation moves would be hazardous. Besides, a constantly changing work zone would only add confusion and make traffic worse.

There are occasions we may have to stop work for weather. However, if we plan to restart once the weather improves, reopening – then reclosing – lanes takes too long to be worthwhile.

We want to finish the work and open all lanes as soon as safely possible, so you can enjoy the open road. We have three more weekends scheduled for paving – July 7-10, 14-17 and Aug. 11-14. We'll be working, even if it isn't always obvious.