Monday, November 4, 2019

The gain was worth the pain on 35 miles of fresh highways

Four highways in three counties resurfaced safely before busy holiday travel season

By Frances Fedoriska

First things first. Thank you. Thank you to drivers on SR 542/Mt Baker Highway, SR 547, 548 and US 2 who planned ahead, took alternate routes, slowed down or waited out lengthy delays as contractor crews resurfaced those highways on some of the hottest days of the year. It's never fun to reduce a highway to one lane, let alone in the summer heat. But we needed that heat to get this down. More on that later.

But, I'm here to tell you our Bituminous Surface Treatment (BST) – or resurfacing work – on those highways is done.

Join me on this trip in the way-back machine for a look at what was accomplished between June and October.

What got done
Spot repair, crack sealing and a new surface was put down on roughly 35 miles of the following portions of these highways:

Snohomish County
  • US 2 between Mount Index Road near Index and Eagle Falls west of Halford
King County
  • US 2 between NE 182nd St/east of Baring and NE Old Cascade Highway/Money Creek campground
Whatcom County
  • SR 542/Mount Baker Highway between Britton Road in Bellingham and St. Peter's Catholic Church/Markel Road west of Kendall
  • SR 547/Kendall Road between Peaceful Valley Drive and Saar Creek/Hillview Road
  • SR 548/Grandview Road between North Starr Road and the Blaine Road roundabout
This work prevents the need for future costly and untimely emergency repairs.
The crack sealing that happened in June is a quick and cost-effective way to keep fall and winter rain from
seeping into the road, freezing, and damaging the surface.

Contractor crews didn't just make repairs to the road surface. They also repaired old expansion joints and resurfaced a handful of bridges.
Bridge rehabilitation didn't just happen on Mount Baker Highway. This is the waterproofing material we put down on a smaller bridge on US 2 just east of Baring. The material protects the bridge structure from water damage.

Why were some delays in August upward of 45 minutes?
As I explained in this blog post in July, the final stage of resurfacing required putting down the new surface that is a mix of oil, sand and gravel. The mix had to be put down during the hottest days of the year because the heat of the roadway helped the material bond and cure.
Crews were constantly moving down the highway during this stage, so a long stretch of road was blocked off
in advance so they could quickly get the surface down without stopping.

To keep the area safe while keeping traffic moving, a pilot car alternated traffic through the work zones. Speed limits were temporarily reduced to 35 miles per hour because loose gravel may have been present on the highway and higher speeds increase the risk of kicking up the loose gravel. A safe following distance was – and always is – recommended.
To help reduce the amount of loose gravel, the help of "Superior Broom" was enlisted to sweep the highway.

Preserving our infrastructure
While we wish we could repave every stretch that starts to pothole or crack, we don't have the budget to do that. With 5,000 miles of highway from the King-Pierce county line to the Canadian border, there is a huge amount of pavement for us to manage. Projects like this one keep lower-use highways preserved until larger improvements are funded.

Thank you for staying engaged
At times, weather conditions postponed work on this project in one area but not another. So again, thank you for staying engaged. Even though this project is done, there is still a wealth of information about current and upcoming construction on our construction update page and the WSDOT North Twitter account.