Wednesday, August 1, 2018

You can help decide how traffic will be during final Revive I-5 weekends

By Tom Pearce

It's been interesting to watch traffic patterns and how travelers are handling the northbound Revive I-5 weekend lane closures south of downtown Seattle.

We've made it through four weekends of lane reductions or full closures, but we still have at least two more weekend-long lane reductions ahead. The next two are scheduled for Aug. 11-12 and Sept. 15-16. We also may need a third weekend to complete work that can't be done during overnight shifts.
With northbound I-5 reduced to two lanes on the first two weekends
of Revive I-5 closures, we saw heavy traffic and big backups.

What we saw
Overall, you've been doing pretty well at helping to limit traffic backups. Thank you, your help is key to keeping traffic moving during this work.

The first two weekends, when two lanes remained open, our statistics show about 50 to 60 percent of people did something different – carpooling, taking transit, using alternative routes. Still, we saw 5- to 7-mile backups on northbound I-5, and slightly larger than normal backups on northbound I-405 and state routes 99 and 509.

During our two most recent weekends – full closures in early June and mid-July – more than 70 percent of you chose an alternative. The result? We saw minimal backups on I-5. The backups on I-405 were a couple miles longer than usual, and we saw a mile or two of backup on state routes 99 and 509. Overall, people were able to get where they were going, even with a full closure of our region's main arterial.
It takes about two full days to remove and replace an expansion joint.

Making lane closures work
We schedule work on weekends because there are times, like Revive I-5 work, that we need long hours to complete a job. Expansion joints (pdf 937 kb) require about 50 straight hours or more to replace; they simply can't be done during an overnight shift. We also took advantage of these same weekend closures to replace about a mile of concrete across all four lanes. Completing the work in just overnight shifts would take many months, greatly increasing the cost and adding years to the project.

Traffic also is lighter on weekends than during the week. Yes, it's a pain for those who travel on weekends, but it inconveniences far fewer people. We do our best to plan around concerts, sporting events and festivals, but sometimes it just isn't possible. Seattle is a major destination, and there's always something happening.

Some events, like the University of Washington commencement and Seafair, are just too big to accommodate major highway work. We can work around other events – we've already had lane reductions and closures the same weekend as a couple of big Mariners series, Sounders matches and concerts.

Even with the closures, people made it to their events. You planned ahead, allowed extra time and took alternatives. And it worked out relatively well.

'What's traffic going to be like?'
That's probably the question I hear most often. We do our best to minimize delays by warning people in advance and suggesting alternatives. My standard response is, it depends on what people do. If people use alternatives, we'll still see backups, but they won't be as bad. If everyone follows their normal routine, we're going see huge backups and long, long delays.

During four weekends with lane reductions or closures, you've shown the system can work – thank you for that and for your patience with the backups that do occur.

We've got two or three weekends to go on this project. Stay engaged by following our Twitter feed, check traffic conditions with the WSDOT traffic app before you leave and think alternatives. If we all work together, we'll continue to enjoy our weekends.


MK said...

Great work tonight! Your Choice to land the I5 Revive closure at the very same time as the SafeCo event exited was a stroke of genius. The additional hour in the car this evening spent wading through event traffic along with the revive closure traffic was an amazing experience. As a family, we were getting a little tired of focusing our complements on just the Mercer experience. Again, Great work, keep it up!

WSDOT said...

Thank you for your feedback. When Wednesday night's show let out later than originally expected, our traffic engineers noticed the backups and asked the contractor on the job start the lane closures later for the Friday night closure.
It's a delicate balance to complete the roadwork while getting folks in and out of special events. We want folks to be able to get where they are going while at the same time completing weather-dependent construction work.

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