Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Vital regular maintenance keeps old structures like the SR 99 Aurora Bridge open

Prepare for delays during July 12-15 upkeep work

By Tom Pearce

Out with the old and in with the new? Not necessarily when it comes to bridges or other infrastructure. Just because something is old, it can still be useful as long as it is properly maintained – like the SR 99 Aurora Bridge in Seattle.

The bridge is 88 years old but it certainly doesn't look its age because through the years we have worked to take care of it – occasional new paint, steel repairs, new pavement.

OK, so the pavement does look pretty worn. That's why we're repaving the bridge. Repaving not only provides a smoother driving surface, it gives us a chance to look at the bridge deck underneath the pavement and make any needed repairs before small problems become big ones. That's what we did on the south end of the bridge during two weekends in June.
Removing the old asphalt allows us to inspect the concrete deck underneath and make repairs.

Beginning at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, we'll start on the north end. Contractor crews from Lakeside Industries will repave the north end of the southbound lanes. To accomplish this, crews will reduce the bridge to one lane in each direction on the eastern (northbound) lanes. They'll finish up by 5 a.m. Monday, July 15. We do need dry weather for this, though. A decent chance of rain in the forecast would require us to postpone the work.

When we repave a bridge deck, we need to put down a waterproof layer to keep the deck in good shape. We need dry weather for 24 hours before and after we place the waterproofing. With the new waterproof layer in place, we can put down new asphalt.
When the concrete has been checked and repaired, a waterproof layer between the concrete and the asphalt protects it.
The weekend of July 13-14, crews will repave the northern part of the southbound lanes.

What to expect
With work taking place in the southbound lanes, we need to close the on-ramp to southbound SR 99 from Fremont Avenue and the off-ramp to Raye Street at the south end of the bridge. Drivers need to plan ahead for the Fremont ramp closure.

A couple weeks ago when we had the same ramps closed, we saw some backups onto Stone Way, east of the bridge, as drivers tried to go south on SR 99 using the Fremont on-ramp. Travelers can still get onto southbound SR 99, but they need to do so farther north, like at the North 46th Street on-ramp.

We still expect to see backups on both directions of SR 99 near the bridge, but people can help.
  • Use alternate routes like I-5 or other bridges to get to Seattle.
  • If it's a short trip, particularly near Fremont and Wallingford, try a bicycle.
  • How important is the trip? If you don't have to be somewhere at a certain time, consider postponing until later.
  • Get real-time traffic information with the WSDOT mobile app and the WSDOT Traffic Twitter feed.
I'm guessing the people who designed and built the Aurora Bridge in 1931 never imagined that 50,000 vehicles would use the bridge each day. It's a vital piece of our transportation infrastructure that we need to protect.

We know any lane closures are frustrating but thank you for your patience while we complete this upkeep work. Regular painting, paving and other maintenance will help the bridge begin its second century of service to Seattle residents.