Monday, September 30, 2019

One year in: Progress made on I-5 through Lakewood and JBLM

By Cara Mitchell

This October marks one year since the project to widen Interstate 5 and rebuild the Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street overpasses in Lakewood began. Chances are, if you live, work or commute near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you have noticed substantial changes to I-5.

In 12 months' time, contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction is nearing completion of a new Berkeley Street overpass, also known as the Freedom Bridge. Construction on two new Thorne Lane overpasses is also underway.

Travelers have undoubtedly noticed the changes along northbound I-5 from milepost 120 all the way to Gravelly Lake Drive. Crews are building additional travel lanes that will add capacity to this section of I-5 that on average sees 140,000 vehicles a day. The contractor is also building noise walls near military housing on JBLM, in the vicinity of 41st Division Drive.
Widening along northbound I-5 from Berkeley Street to Thorne Lane.

Over the past two weeks, the contractor shifted the travel lanes of northbound and southbound I-5 towards the outside shoulders of the highway. This created a new work zone in the center median of the highway from milepost 120 to the ramps for 41st Division Drive. This work is part of the progress of adding an additional lane in each direction of I-5.
Crews paving during overnight hours on northbound I-5 approaching 41st Division Drive.

Those are some of the most visible signs of progress of this exciting project. Other items that are just as important but not always noticeable are the movement of communication cables that control traffic signals, ramp meters and provide traffic data to this busy corridor. The contractor has had to move this infrastructure from one side of the highway to the other in order to widen I-5.

The majority of this progress has occurred during overnight hours, when crews can close lanes and ramps. We want to keep travelers moving during peak commute hours, but advance the project when traffic volumes are lower, typically during overnight hours.

So what's next?

Berkeley Street interchange
This fall, the contractor will finish the bridge deck and the connecting ramps, sidewalks and install lighting on the new Berkeley Street overpass. Our goal is to have this new overpass open to travelers in early 2020. Opening the new overpass will involve a series of closely coordinated and timed closures that we will provide more information on as the time approaches.
Construction continues on the approach ramps to the new Berkeley Street overpass.
This one in particular is located near Camp Murray.

Thorne Lane interchange
Rising from the shoulders of I-5 and nearby Union Street in Lakewood is the second 24-foot tall Thorne Lane overpass. Construction crews are finishing building the bridge footings, piers and abutment walls of this second overpass that will not only span I-5 but also the adjacent railroad. In late November, crews will install new bridge girders on this very tall overpass. The work will require nightly closures of I-5. All lanes of northbound and southbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane in each direction and detoured using the Thorne Lane off- and on-ramps.  We will provide travelers advance notice of this work once the dates become available from the contractor.
Two new overpasses are being constructed at Thorne Lane.

In addition to bridge construction at Thorne Lane, crews are building a new roundabout that will connect Murray Road with the new Thorne Lane overpass and the northbound I-5 off- and on- ramps. Once complete, this roundabout will help move traffic through the area without the delays that the current signalized intersection brings.

Coming in 2020 – early heads up!
This first years' worth of work has shown that you can have progress on major construction projects without huge impacts to traffic. Sometimes, though, there is no way to avoid a longer-term closure, due to available space or the characteristics of the project. In early 2020, there will be several necessary long-term closures to advance and complete the project. This includes a long weekend closure of the Berkeley interchange to tie in the new overpass, a two-week closure of the Berkeley on-ramp to northbound I-5, and a several-month's-long closure of a section of Union Avenue between Spruce Street and Thorne Lane to advance work on the Thorne Lane interchange. In both instances, detours will be in place. We will provide advance notice as to when this work will begin once the contractor's schedule is finalized.

The new Thorne Lane interchange is expected to open in late summer 2020 and the final traffic configuration for this project is scheduled to be in place in summer 2021.

Please continue to watch your speed in work zones and give construction crews the room they need to finish this important project.

Follow the latest closure and detour information for all Pierce County maintenance and construction projects online at www.TacomaTraffic.com.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Accelerated roundabout construction to close Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange for 10 days

By Ryan Overton

Fall has arrived and in most cases our road projects are starting to wind down. But for one project just west of Spokane, it is quite the opposite.

The Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange improvements project is about to pick up quite a bit. At 4 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30, contractor crews will close the westbound I-90 on- and off-ramps, including the intersection at SR 902 at the westbound ramp terminals. The intersection of SR 902 and Geiger Boulevard will also close. They are scheduled to reopen early on October 10.
This closure will allow crews to completely build the second of three roundabouts for the project in just 10 days. On October 10, not only will the second roundabout open but the roundabout currently being constructed at the Geiger Blvd and SR 902 intersection will open as well.
The Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange will fully close for 10 days for roundabout construction.

This project was accelerated due to delays associated with utility conflicts on the project worksite. Accelerating the roundabout construction will allow for the second roundabout to be completed this year and keep the contractor on schedule.

So how do you build a roundabout in 10 days? 
Normally, roundabout construction might take 6 or 7 weeks. In this case, we’re packing the work into 10 days, which takes a lot of careful planning, communication and coordination. Originally the contractor was slated to build the roundabout in about 28 working days, typically five days a week, 8 hours a day. The total number of hours equates to about 240-252 working hours. On this accelerated schedule, crews will work 10 days straight, 24 hours per day, equaling about 240 working hours.

Fully closing the interchange allows the crews to work in a much safer environment than if traffic was still moving through. This will allow work to flow in a way that isn’t possible when live traffic is also present.
The concrete being used for this project is also unique. During typical construction, concrete takes about seven days to gain enough strength after pouring to allow other work to happen around it. During the accelerated construction a special concrete mix will be used for curbing and the islands, which will gain the required strength in about 18 hours.
This concept drawing shows the locations of the two new roundabouts being constructed in Medical Lake.

What sort of coordination is needed to pull this off?
Since there is little room for schedule delays, constant communication and planning with subcontractors is vital. Getting time and date commitments for the various construction work is crucial in pulling this off. It also means crews will work different shifts, so communication and transition of work needs to be seamless.  For example, the asphalt paving subcontractor can’t start their work until the curbing subcontractor is finished.

The other challenge was finalizing detour routes and coordinating with local businesses. The Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange is a key access point for trucking, businesses and a link to the city of Medical Lake. Detours can take weeks or even months to develop and that had to be expedited. That included coordinating with the City of Airway Heights and Spokane County to get approvals to use their roadways, as well as soliciting feedback from local businesses.

How to navigate the closure:
  • Drivers traveling on westbound I-90 who normally get off at the westbound Medical Lake/SR 902 off-ramp will have two options:
    • Taking the Geiger/Grove exit will allow for better access to the south side of the Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange. The route will take you south on Grove Road, west on Thorpe Road, south on Thomas Mallen Road and west on Hallett Road.
    • The Four Lake interchange will be ideal for drivers wanting access to SR 902 and travel to Medical Lake.
  • Business owners along Geiger Blvd, Hayford Road and SR 902 will have local access by taking the Geiger/Grove interchange, traveling west on Geiger Blvd to Electric Ave, then can access local businesses from Hayford Road or travel north to Hayford Road, west on McFarlane Road and then south on Craig Road to access local business along SR 902 or White Road.
  • While I-90 in both directions and the eastbound on- and off-ramps will remain open, travelers needing access to I-90 are encouraged to drive east on I-90 from the Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange, exit at the Geiger/Grove interchange to then head back west on I-90.
Once completed, drivers will begin using both new roundabouts and traffic will flow seamlessly through the intersection.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Using technology to help reduce worker risk

Robo flaggers help keep everyone safe and moving through construction zones

By Tamara Greenwell

Our highway workers do exceptional work and bring a wealth of experience maintaining our state's roadways – often alongside high-speed traffic. We're continually looking for new ways to use technology to reduce their risk, and that's where automated flagger assistance devices (AFAD's) come in.

Often called robo flaggers, these devices can be a great safety option in certain circumstances.
A robo flagger is controlled by a certified flagger, away from the hazards of vehicles in the work zone.

They are portable flagging devices with a crossing arm that drops down to block traffic when the lane is closed. Robo flaggers are often more visible than human flaggers and travelers tend to see them from a greater distance away, especially when it's raining or foggy. Most importantly, if a person driving through a work zone doesn't see the robo flagger, the equipment takes the hit rather than our highway worker.

We started using robo flaggers in 2002 on a trial basis, and they have been in continual use since 2004, though we only use them in specific locations. You can see robo flaggers in use along two-lane roadways where alternating one-way traffic operations are needed to safely perform highway preservation work like paving, guardrail installation or bridge work.
When the arm is down and STOP is displayed, traffic must wait.

How do robo flaggers work?

With a name like robo flagger, you might think the devices are automated. In fact, certified human flaggers operate the robo flaggers. The road worker is stationed off the roadway in a more protected location like a work vehicle or behind a guardrail. They're close enough to see traffic and the work zone to respond to traffic in real time, but far enough away that they safer in case of an incident.

If a driver fails to stop for the robo flagger stop arm, an alarm sounds to alert the crews working on the road, giving them time to try to get out of the way. This video shows how it works.
Rules of a robo flagger

Work zone safety rules still apply when a robo flagger is in place. Follow the directions as you would a human flagger as it's there to keep you, fellow travelers and the road workers safe. Stay behind the stop sign when the lights are red and the control arm is down and proceed only when the arm goes up AND the sign changes from STOP to SLOW. While it's never fun to have to stop on a highway, we'll get you moving again as soon as it's safe to do so.

And remember, while the robo flagger may be a machine, the road workers it is helping are not. So please always stay alert and focused, slow down and give them as much room as possible. While the robo flagger does increase safety, we're also counting on you to help keep the human crew safe.
When the arm is raised and SLOW is displayed, traffic can proceed with caution through the work zone.

The white SUV is performing an illegal maneuver by passing the pickup truck and robo flagger. All traffic
must wait until the arm is raised and proceed only when it's their turn.

We are seeing increasing numbers of drivers who stop at the robo flagger and then drive around the arm into the work zone. This is unsafe for our workers and also for the travelers going around the flagging machine.

There's a reason the arm goes down and stays down. Even if you can't see traffic coming the other way, a lot goes on behind the scenes, including some you won't see as you drive through the work zone. Keeping the lane free while the crossing arm is down helps keep everyone safe and lets us work more efficiently.  

Please be patient and wait for the arm on the robo flagger to raise just as you would wait for a human flagger to turn their flagging paddle. We're working to minimize travel delays, while maintaining a safer, more efficient transportation system for everyone.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

One last weekend of expansion joint repair work on northbound I-5 in Tukwila, Sept. 28-29

By Tom Pearce

Work to replace the left half of an expansion joint on northbound I-5 at the Duwamish River Bridge in Tukwila went so well last weekend that the contractor crews were able to reopen all lanes before 10 a.m. on Sunday – 14 hours earlier than scheduled.
Crews pour concrete to form the expansion
joint on I-5 in Tukwila

Sometimes on work like this there are issues with how something fits, requiring adjustments. That's why we schedule longer work periods, but this time everyone worked smoothly.

Which brings me to this coming weekend. Contractor crews will return to repair the right half of the expansion joint beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. They will chip out the old concrete, replace the steel, then pour the new concrete, which requires 24 hours to cure before traffic can drive on it.

This weekend, however, the lanes most likely won't reopen early. Crews have additional work to complete before they can finish the project. The work requires moving traffic from the left two lanes of the interstate to the right two lanes late Sunday night.

As always, weather could be a factor. In this case, the concrete work can tolerate a little rain, but a steady, heavy rain could force them to postpone.

What's open, what's closed
This work will close the three right lanes of northbound I-5. The lane closures will start just south of the I-405/SR 518 interchange. While the SR 518 on-ramp will remain open, several other northbound I-5 on-ramps will close:
  • Southbound I-405 HOV only ramp
  • Southcenter Boulevard ramp
  • Interurban Avenue South ramp
Only one lane of the northbound I-5 off-ramp to northbound SR 599 will remain open. The HOV bypass ramp will close near the Klickitat Drive overpass, and will reopen to all drivers approaching the Duwamish River Bridge.

Be like a Scout
As always, people who travel through this part of Tukwila will need to be prepared. You'll still be able to get to your destination; it just takes some planning. Fortunately, there are several alternatives:
  • Sound Transit's Link light rail
  • King County Metro or Sound Transit bus service
  • Carpool or vanpool
  • Travel early or late in the day, before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m.
This is the last major lane reduction we have planned for 2019, although emergency closures are always possible. For now, thanks for your patience and assistance as we finish this important preservation work.

Safety improvements coming to more than 80 guardrails starting in October

By Frances Fedoriska

Chances are you only notice them if you’ve ever needed them. I’m talking about the curved ends of the guardrails lining so many of our state roads and highways.
Curved terminals like this one on SR 509 are now outdated and need to be replaced with guardrail
terminals that meet current standards.

Thanks to improving safety technology, it’s time for many of these curved breakaway cable terminals (BCT) to be replaced.

What’s changing? 
The bigger reflective end of the new terminals can absorb more energy in a collision. They also have new components, lower anchors and other refined safety features we hope you never find yourself testing out first-hand.

Why this change?
The curved ends you see on guardrails have been in use since the 1970s. Just like car safety technology evolves to keep us safer in a collision, so does guardrail technology. We’re working to replace BCT’s so they align with that new technology and meet federal safety criteria.
This non-flared terminal, which replaced an old curved one on US 2 this summer, is what contractor crews will be installing during overnight lane reductions this fall and winter.

Determining replacement locations

There are a lot of guardrails throughout the states, and only so much time and funding. In August we replaced the one on the westbound 20th Street ramp to westbound US 2, just before the SR 204 interchange near the trestle between Lake Stevens and Everett. So how do we pick which ones will get attention? Our engineers look at a bunch of things:
  • Crash history on a given stretch of highway
  • Traffic speeds
  • How steep is the road?
  • How steep are any surrounding roadside ditches?
  • Road angle and curve
  • Immovable objects (overpass foundations, large sign posts and trees)
  • Installation and maintenance costs
OK, so which ones got picked?
This fall and winter, contractor crews will replace more than 80 terminals along some of the busiest stretches on our most heavily traveled highways.

I-5
  • From Military Road South in SeaTac to just north of Lake Samish in Bellingham. (53 terminals)
I-90
  • Bellevue Way Southeast to Bendigo Boulevard South in North Bend. (23 terminals)
I-405
  • SR 520 interchange to SR 522 in Bothell. (3 terminals)
SR 18
  • At the end of the ramp from northbound SR 167 to eastbound SR 18 near the Walmart. (1 terminal)
SR 99
  • Southbound at the exit to South Park and South Kenyon Street in Seattle. (1 terminal)
SR 509
  • Northbound, just north of South 112th Street in Seattle. (1 terminal)
SR 526
  • At the Seaway Boulevard merge in Everett. (1 terminal)
Lane closures
Contractor crews will swap out the guardrail ends during nighttime lane closures. This project is mobile and weather-dependent. Look for updates on the @wsdot_traffic Twitter account and search #WABCT to sift through the clutter.

We need your help
Drivers need to always focus on the road. Don’t let your phone, the radio, passengers or other things distract you from operating your vehicle. When you see a work zone, slow down and move over if there’s room to do so. While these guardrails are designed to help keep travelers safe, we would prefer nobody ever made use of them.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Contractor escapes scary near-miss while setting up work zone

By Celeste Dimichina

In early April 2018, Gabe Barnes was resetting traffic barrels and making sure a nighttime work zone on SR 900 in the Seattle area was set up correctly. Then he heard one of the worst sounds a road worker can hear.

A car was coming at him. Fast.

Turning toward the sound, Gabe, an inspector for Atkinson Construction, saw a car speeding through the work zone and crashing into the traffic barrels marking a closed lane. This set off a chain reaction as drivers attempted to avoid the crash, with another car slamming into Gabe's work truck on the right shoulder, about 10 feet away from him.
Gabe Barnes' work truck was hit as part of a work zone collision in April 2018, but fortunately no one was hurt.

Despite signs – including illuminated video message signs – staged well in advance of the closure, the driver of the original vehicle said he didn't notice the advanced warning or that he was entering a closed lane. Not having much time to react, Gabe did the best he could to get out of the way, and luckily he wasn't injured.

In fact – and fortunately – no one was seriously injured in the incident. But it's another reminder of how important it is to stay focused and alert on our highways. We spend a lot of time on training and safety equipment, but road workers also count on drivers to help send them home safely to their families.

In Gabe's case, he's a husband and father of two sons and a daughter. He enjoys spending time with them hiking, fishing and camping – and we want to make sure he can do that for years to come.
Left: Atkinson Construction inspector Gabe Barnes was setting up barrels on SR 900 in the Seattle area when a car crashed into the work zone in April 2018. Right: Gabe enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and
three children, including camping and fishing.

"If drivers took a few extra minutes to slow down, focus and pay attention to their surroundings, it would help ensure that everyone makes it home at the end of the day, including the drivers," Gabe said.

While we're coming to the end of the busy summer construction season, there will still be plenty of road work happening as we move into the colder months, including road closures and emergency repairs. Please continue to be on the lookout for signs indicating road work wherever you travel. And, whenever you are around road workers, slow down, pay extra attention and give them as much room as possible. This will help make sure Gabe, you and everyone on the road can go home to their friends and family safely each day.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Getting HOV connections open at I-5 and SR 16

By Cara Mitchell

Update 9/21/19 11:45 a.m.
The southbound I-5 auxiliary lane from South 38th Street to South 56th Street is now open. The left lane of southbound I-5 in that same area is now closed. Westbound South 56th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 is closed. Drivers on westbound South 56th Street can still access southbound I-5 using the left turn lane at the Tacoma Mall Boulevard interchange.

Original Post
Are we there yet?  Well, almost. We're talking about the finish line for construction at the I-5 and SR 16 interchange in Tacoma. Last month, we crossed a big milestone with getting southbound I-5 into its final alignment by SR 16, and reopening the final connection between eastbound SR 16 to southbound I-5.

This September and October, design-builder Skanska is putting the final pieces of the puzzle together.

What's left to build?
Here's a quick rundown of items the contractor is finishing up:
  • New southbound I-5 auxiliary lane from South 38th Street to South 56th Street
  • Final alignment for northbound I-5 and new lane striping
  • Two overhead sign structures that will provide HOV information for northbound I-5 travelers
  • Paving for HOV ramp connections along with a concrete barrier
To get this finished will require an around-the-clock lane closure on southbound I-5 for several weeks. We also need good weather, and your continued patience.

Sign structure construction brings lane closure
A new auxiliary lane at South 38th Street, shown in the far right of this photo, will open to traffic as early as Sept. 21

As early as the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21, a new auxiliary lane on southbound I-5 from South 38th Street to South 56th Street will open. The new lane will give South 38th Street travelers a dedicated lane to merge on to southbound I-5.

At the same time, crews will temporarily close the far left lane of southbound I-5 from South 38th Street to South 56th Street. This closure creates a median work zone allowing crews to construct two overhead HOV sign structures. The left lane closure will be in place, around-the-clock, for approximately six weeks or until the work is finished.

During this work, southbound I-5 past the Tacoma Mall will have three general purpose lanes open, plus the new auxiliary lane. The collector/distributor ramp at South 56th Street will become a temporary through lane. The westbound South 56th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close during this time. Drivers can still access southbound I-5 by using the left turn lane and the South 56th Street and Tacoma Mall Boulevard intersection.

We know that during peak afternoon commute hours there will be congestion on southbound I-5 from this work. We and the contractor are working hard to complete this work in as short amount of time as possible. While we understand closing a lane is an inconvenience, safety is our top priority. The lane must close while we build the sign structure in the middle of the highway.

Concrete barrier work
Now that traffic has been shifted onto the new northbound and southbound I-5 alignments, Skanska is able to complete work on new concrete barriers for the final configuration of I-5 and the HOV ramps, along with final ramp paving. This includes pouring concrete for most of the remaining barrier sections along with the sign structure foundations. This work will be done by the end of October, provided there are stretches of reasonably favorable weather. The concrete barrier work will have little effect on mainline travelers.
The center of this aerial photo shows where new HOV ramp connections between SR 16 and I-5 will connect in Tacoma.

When will HOV ramp connections open?
The contractor will open HOV connections between SR 16 and I-5 once the sign and barrier work is complete, which we anticipate by the end of October. While we would love to have the HOV connections open sooner, some are a part of an active work zone. This would require some temporary barrier or striping that would add more work to the project. No one wants to open something up, only to have to close it again. All of the HOV ramps will open at the same time once the work is complete.

Finish line
That's it! That is the work left on the I-5/SR 16 Realignment and HOV Connections project. We know you're anxious to see this work complete. We are too.

To the 200,000 travelers a day that use this interchange, your patience through all of this has been greatly appreciated. We need your help during this final push to get us all to the finish line.

Please continue to watch your speed in work zones and give construction crews the room they need to finish this important project, and the nearby project that is building a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

Follow the latest closure and detour information for all Pierce County maintenance and construction projects online at www.TacomaTraffic.com.

Popular ferry photo contest returning to Twitter for third year

By Justin Fujioka

Fall is almost here and there’s no shortage of images to snap pictures of in the Puget Sound area.

Well, we’d like all you talented shutterbugs to focus on our ferries because our popular #FerryFotoContest on Twitter is back! We want a fantastic picture to be on the cover of our printed Winter 2020 Sailing Schedule. It's your chance for thousands of people to see your best ferry shot!


How to submit a photo
All you have to do is follow @wsferries on Twitter, then Tweet your picture between noon Monday, Sept. 30, and noon Friday, Oct. 4, 2019. Be sure to include the hashtag #FerryFotoContest. All members of the public except WSDOT employees and contractors are eligible and invited to participate. No fare purchase is required.
This photo by Jim Reitz won our 2018 ferry photo contest and was on our winter sailing schedule cover.

Photo requirements and contest rules
We’re not looking for just any old image of a ferry. We want something unique, striking and interesting. You may want to include a city skyline, mountains, passengers, or if you're lucky, wildlife. In addition to the submission qualifications listed above, each entrant must follow these requirements and rules:
  • Your photo:
    • Must include at least one vessel in the Washington State Ferries system (in full or partial).
    • Will be printed in black and white, so consider how that will look.
    • Must have been taken yourself and you have the rights to submit it to this contest.
    • May have been taken at any time.
  • Do not break any laws or do anything unsafe in order to snap a shot. If you are on a ferry please steer clear of restricted areas, and if driving, please no photographing or Tweeting.
  • Do not Tweet a link to an image that has been uploaded to another site.
  • Do not send your photo via direct message on Twitter.
  • You may submit up to three pictures. If you Tweet more than three, we will only consider the first three shared.
  • You will retain rights to your photograph, however our five finalists must agree to grant us rights to use their snapshots for marketing and communication purposes, which will include photo credit. We will never sell your picture.
Selecting a winner
A panel of judges will select six finalists based on originality, technicality, composition, artistic merit and overall impact. The decision of the panel is subjective, final and cannot be appealed.

The finalists’ pictures will be posted on the @wsferries Twitter page at noon Monday, Oct. 14. The image with the most “likes” at noon Friday, Oct. 18, will be named the winner and their photo will be featured on our 2020 winter schedules!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Seattle travelers should develop a game plan with several weekend closures coming up

By Thomas Charlson

With three games and major roadwork, prepare for delays on downtown highways and city streets

While the summer season may seem mostly over, we still have vital work to do to keep the highways in the Seattle area running smoothly. Add home games for the Sounders, Mariners and Huskies to the mix and it's going to be a busy traffic weekend for the highways and city streets around the region.

So what's closed this weekend? Here's what you need to know:

South Dearborn Street closure
Contractor crews are preparing to remove two small sections of the Alaskan Way Viaduct on South Dearborn Street near the stadiums. This work will close South Dearborn Street for up to ten days starting on Thursday, Sept. 12 and narrow First Avenue South to two lanes on either side of the intersection to create a safe work zone.

This work will affect those headed to the stadiums for the Sounders and Mariners games. During this time, consider alternate routes, including exiting SR 99 at Spokane Street, as well as transit, carpooling or bicycling.

SR 99 tunnel maintenance closures
Typically the monthly overnight maintenance closures of the SR 99 tunnel are in one direction, but we need to do a structural inspection of the tunnel's double-deck highway. To do that, we need to turn off the air exhaust system, so for the safety of the public we will close the tunnel in both directions.

Here's the schedule:
  • From 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, to 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14 – Both directions of the SR 99 tunnel will fully close.
  • From 10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, to 8 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 15 – The northbound SR 99 tunnel will close.
We will also complete routine maintenance, which includes checking the cameras and signals, cleaning the tunnel and performing weed control. Tolling vendors will also be working on their equipment during this closure.
Lift trucks are used to access the cameras, signs and lighting in Seattle's SR 99 tunnel.

Northbound I-5 lane reductions at 85th Street
Two lanes of northbound I-5 at 85th Street will close from 10 p.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday. We are repairing concrete panels near the area. During this weather-dependent work, the northbound I-5 express lanes will remain open overnight.

Stay updated
We've had our fair share of roadway closures this summer and this weekend is no exception. The best thing you can do is plan ahead, use alternate routes in some circumstances and stay updated using our online tools.
You can also consider using public transit, walking or biking to get to where you need to go safely. We appreciate everyone's patience as we get this work done during the final days of summer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Emergency expansion joint repair on northbound I-5 in Seattle needed as seasons change

By Tom Pearce

When you manage more than 7,000 miles of highway, sometimes things pop up that require emergency repairs.

Two years ago, we made improvements to a section of northbound I-5 at the Duwamish River in Tukwila. As part of our design, we reused steel plates in four of the interstate's expansion joints. We thought the plates had some life left in them, but that just wasn't the case.
Expansion joint repairs keep a joint stable until more permanent repairs can be scheduled.

In August, one of the joints broke. We did a temporary repair, but now we will make a permanent fix during the weekends of Sept. 21-22 and 28-29.

Weekend closures
To complete this critical emergency repair, our contractor crews will reduce northbound I-5 to only the two right lanes beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20. All lanes will reopen by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 22. Then on the following weekend, at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, crews will shift all traffic to the two left lanes until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29.

During these back-to-back weekend closures, crews will chip out concrete and put in new steel plates. The repairs take two weekends because the crews can only work on half of an expansion joint at a time.
The left lanes will close the weekend of Sept. 21-22; the right lanes will close Sept. 28-29.

Planning ahead
It's important to finish this work on a weekend when there is less traffic. If we wait, the joint could break at a very inopportune time, such as during a weekday commute.

We want to complete these repairs before cool, wet weather moves in, but once we hit fall, that means football season as well as the end of baseball. We've talked to the Seahawks and Mariners, so they know our schedule. The Seahawks play the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 22; the Mariners are at home for their final series of the season Sept. 26-29 with the Oakland Athletics.

Getting to your destination
We have worked on game weekends before and are again asking people to plan ahead for these lane reductions:
  • Take Sound Transit Link light rail from Angle Lake or Tukwila – it will drop you off a few blocks from the stadium.
  • Use King County Metro or Sound Transit. Yes, the buses will have to deal with the traffic, but riding a bus allows you to avoid the stress of driving.
  • Carpool – it's always more fun to go to a game with fellow fans.
  • Take an alternate route, like I-405 and I-90 or SR 509.
If you choose to drive, we have tools to let you know what to expect:
  • Our Twitter account and mobile app will have traffic information.
  • Our website shows which ramps are open and closed near the work zone.
  • You can get weekly email updates with information about construction and other events that may affect traffic.
Any time we limit lanes on a highway, it's a challenge. We appreciate you planning ahead and being patient as we work to keep I-5 in good shape for everybody - during every season.

Monday, September 9, 2019

From simple repair to near tragedy

Two maintenance workers jump over barrier at last second to avoid work zone collision

By Ryan Overton

A simple concrete repair job in Spokane quickly became terrifying for Allen Sexton and Koby Whetstine.

Working on the eastbound I-90 ramp to Hamilton Street in Spokane on Aug. 5, Allen and Koby were wrapping things up. The noisy work was done and they'd removed their ear protection, which quite possibly saved their lives. Moments later, a driver lost control of his vehicle and slid along the concrete barrier.
A speeding vehicle entered our work zone on I-90 in Spokane and slammed into our work truck,
sending the road crew members jumping over a barrier to safety.

The sound of the oncoming vehicle gave the two maintenance workers a split-second warning that the vehicle was careening toward them. With just seconds to react, Koby and Allen jumped over the barrier before the vehicle slammed into the back of their pickup truck.

"We heard it before we saw it, and all we did was look at it and jump," Koby said.

Our two colleagues remembered the incident in this video.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident. After a short foot pursuit, the driver of the car was taken into custody by the Washington State Patrol on suspicion of DUI.

"Incredibly lucky," Allen said. "You don't think too much ahead of time other than get out of the way. But afterwards, you think about it a lot."

This is another stark reminder about the dangers road crews face. The men and women who work to keep our highways safe have families and friends to go home to, and they count on the public's help to make that happen.
Left: The driver of the car that crashed into our I-90 work zone was arrested for possible DUI.
Right: A car smashed into the concrete barrier and construction sign, which alerted our
crew members up ahead just seconds before the car struck their work truck.

"The first thing I did was think about my 11-month-old daughter, after it happened, and how I might've never seen her (again)," Koby said.

So what can you do to help?
  • Slow down, especially near work zones
  • Move over and give road crews some extra room. Not only is it smart, it's also the law.
  • Stay alert for signage and work zones.
  • Never drive while distracted – this is the top cause of work zone crashes in our state.
  • Drive sober
We're so thankful that Allen and Koby made it through this scary incident safely, but it could've been so much worse. Sadly, all of our road workers have a story of a near miss – or worse – that they've experienced on the job.

Working near traffic is dangerous. We take as many precautions as possible, but we also need your help to make sure everyone -- our workers and the traveling public -- gets home safely at the end of the day.

"We want to get home to our family as much as they want to get home to their family every night," Allen said.