Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Early or late travel advised over I-90 Labor Day weekend

By Mike Allende

Labor Day weekend is the last gasp of summer for most people and it is a very busy travel weekend on state highways. In particular, we see a huge surge in traffic over our mountain passes, including I-90.

Because of several construction projects over I-90 this summer, we’ve been advising drivers to plan for significant delays, especially on weekends. And that remains true for Labor Day.
Creating a safe work zone on I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass required us to split westbound traffic in order to continue to let vehicles through.

While we pick up most of our construction work zones across the state on most holiday weekends, in the case of some of the projects on I-90, that isn’t possible. That means the traffic shift on westbound I-90 between the summit of Snoqualmie Pass (milepost 52) and North Bend (34) due to a major bridge deck repair project will still be in place Labor Day weekend.

Why can’t we remove the traffic control?

When it comes to bridge decks, once you’ve started, there’s no turning back. The work has to be finished, which is why this detour has been in place 24/7 since we started in mid-June. All three of the bridges we’re working on have sections where the deck has been removed and it isn’t safe to put traffic on the unfinished driving surface.
With parts of the I-90 roadway near Snoqualmie Pass torn up for bridge deck repair, it’s not safe to allow vehicles to travel over those areas.

Our goal was to have the detour removed in time for Labor Day weekend but construction can be unpredictable and issues came up that delayed that. The contractor’s schedule fell behind due to some contractual issues as well as labor disputes that made delivery of concrete difficult.

The contractor has been working 21 hours a day over two shifts, six days a week (there’s a three-hour window they can’t work due to environmental regulations) to try to get this work done before the wet and cold season arrives.

Remind me what’s happening

Repairing the bridge decks on this stretch is no easy task. It requires removal of the top layer of the bridge deck using high-pressured waterblasting tools. Once the top layer is off, the bridge is assessed for damage or areas that need to be repaired. Then crews pour a layer of concrete, which cures for seven days.
A look at the best and worst times to travel on I-90 during Labor Day weekend.
In order for this work to be safely done, the westbound lanes are reduced from three lanes to two, with one of those two shifted around the work zone. So one lane continues on in the westbound direction, and the other detours around the construction site via an eastbound I-90 lane.

Travel early or late if you can

You can now access our Labor Day travel charts on our mobile
device by clicking the red icon on the travel maps page.
Every weekend we see heavy traffic on eastbound I-90 on Fridays and on westbound I-90 on Sundays. This will be true again Labor Day weekend, though the heaviest traffic westbound will likely be Monday. We recommend that drivers planning to use I-90 travel early in the day or late at night if possible to avoid the heaviest times of congestion. Please note that we also expect to see slow downs near Cle Elum due to work replacing old pavement on that stretch of highway.

Be sure you and your vehicle are prepared for potentially long waits if you travel during peak travel times. Have a full gas tank, food and water available and be sure your vehicle is in good working order. Check travel conditions before you head out and stay informed throughout your travels by using our online tools – but not while you’re driving, of course. You can also access our Labor Day best-times-to-travel charts on our mobile app by clicking on the red icon at the top of the screen on our traffic map.

If you plan on using other mountain passes like US 2 as alternatives, understand that other people are planning that as well. Again, this is a very busy travel weekend and it’s likely you’ll find congestion in most areas if you travel during peak times. And finally, please be sure to keep all debris - especially flammable debris - in your vehicle. We've already seen lots of roadside fires this summer and we hope we can avoid seeing any more.

We understand that this is frustrating to travelers and we regret that this construction zone is still in place. This is important work and it has to get done in a limited amount of time before weather conditions change in the passes and we appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work to get these projects complete.


Coug66 said...

White Pass open to normal traffic?

WSDOT said...

Yes, White Pass is open but we expect heavy traffic on all of our mountain passes so if possible plan on traveling early in the day or late at night.

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