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.