Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Not-so-garden-variety paving project to begin in tulip country

Smoother travel coming to all users of State Route 536 in Mount Vernon

By Ally Barrera

Another Skagit Valley Tulip Festival has come and gone. Now the bright orange of construction signs will replace the rich reds, yellows, pinks and purples of the Mount Vernon tulip fields.

Starting May 5, contractor crews from Granite Construction will begin ripping out old, damaged asphalt as if it was a ribbon of non-native weeds and replacing it for a smoother ride for all. This is for our State Route 536 paving project from the Skagit River Bridge to Interstate 5.

Bumpy like a molehill

SR 536/Division Street/West 3rd Street cuts through the heart of downtown Mount Vernon and carries an average of 15,000 vehicles a day through the tulip hub. Over the years, all that traffic has worn down the existing pavement and freckled the highway with cracks, ruts and bumps. This damage is the molehills of the road world - the worst!
Unlike in a garden, you don't want water seeping into asphalt. Rain gets into these
cracks on SR 536, compromising the integrity of the pavement.

Not only has this uneven surface created a rough ride for travelers, but it's also increased the risk of water pooling on the roadway. Wet roads lead to difficult driving conditions as well as costly emergency repairs and unexpected lane closures.

Master pavers to the rescue!

Once crews grind off the old pavement and make any necessary repairs to the road base, they'll cover their handiwork with new, silky-smooth asphalt. This weather-dependent work will result in a safer highway that's more enjoyable to travel on.

The new asphalt - and accompanying repairs to the Skagit River Bridge deck - will extend the life of the roadway so that this section of Mount Vernon remains accessible to all modes of travel for decades to come.

Don't forget about other highway users

We didn't! Thirty sidewalk ramps in downtown Mount Vernon are getting upgrades. They'll be wider with more gradual sloping, so it is safer and easier to cross this busy road.
One of 30 ramps along SR 536 that crews will improve to meet ADA specifications.

A 'Full Shade' project

Unlike tulips, crews don't need sunlight to get this project done. Nearly all work will happen overnight between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Motorists can expect lane reductions and the occasional full highway closure - but don't worry - there will be signed detours to help you get around.

Folks who use the sidewalks should anticipate around-the-clock sidewalk closures during those improvements. Detours will be in place, but give yourself a few extra minutes.

Planned road or sidewalk closures should wrap up by fall 2019.

Constant vigilance

Any green thumb knows the key to a lush, colorful garden is to constantly check your plants for critters and pests, and to make sure they're getting enough light, food and water. Same goes for road closures.

Keep checking these resources for upcoming lane reductions, road and ramp closures: