Monday, August 24, 2020

Your road map to navigating the upcoming I-5 overnight closures

By Nick VinZant

A five-mile stretch of our busiest highway is closing for two consecutive nights this coming weekend – Aug. 28 and 29 – and we want everyone to be as prepared as possible. During the work, crews will close both directions of I-5 so they can safely install supersized bridge girders for a new bridge in Fife. The highway will close overnight on both Friday and Saturday between Fife and Federal Way. Backups could be significant. How significant? The answer depends on what drivers do. Our best advice is to avoid I-5 between Seattle and Olympia before, during and after the closure hours, if possible. If that's not an option, the information below will help you navigate your trip.
Crews will transport and install massive girders for a new bridge over I-5 in Fife
during upcoming overnight weekend closures.

First, the basics

Both directions of I-5 close from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. between 54th Avenue East in Fife and SR 18 in Federal Way on Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29. Lots of heavy equipment must move on and off the highway for the bridge work, so crews will start closing lanes around 8 p.m. both nights. After the roadway reopens by 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, there will be lane closures in place until about noon. Ramps to and from I-5 will also be closed during the work.

Avoid backups

There's never a good time to close I-5. But by scheduling the heavy lifting overnight, we are trying to minimize delays as much as possible. Still, it's best to avoid I-5 between Seattle and Olympia during the work hours, if possible. If you must travel, consider using the SR 167/SR 512 detour. It's longer, but it might save time as these roads can handle more traffic than the SR 99 detour. The SR 99 detour is designed for those traveling to Tacoma or SR 16. However, if everyone uses the SR 99 detour, the risks of long backups increase.
I-5 in Fife will be fully closed overnight on Aug. 28 and 29 as part of a new bridge project.

On-ramps and off-ramps

There will be ramp closures associated with the highway closure, including ramps that must be used to transport the 220-foot-long girders from Concrete Technology Corp. in Tacoma where they were made, to the new 70th Avenue Bridge site in Fife.
Several on and off ramps will close as part of the overnight I-5 closures in Fife Aug. 28 and 29.

The bottom line

  • A five-mile stretch of I-5 will close between the I-5 / 54th Avenue East interchange in Fife and the I-5 / SR 18 interchange in Federal Way
Closure times
  • Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29
    • Lanes begin closing at 8 p.m.
    • 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.- full closure
    • Lanes begin opening at 8 a.m.
    • I-5 fully open by noon
Ramp Closures

Southbound I-5 to Port of Tacoma Road off-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 9 p.m. – 5 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.
54th Avenue East to northbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 7 p.m. – 9 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 8 p.m. – 10.a.m.
Eastbound SR 18 to southbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 10 p.m. – 8 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 11 p.m. – 9.a.m.
Westbound SR 18 to Southbound I-5 on-ramp
  • Aug. 28
    • 10 p.m. – 8 a.m.
  • Aug. 29
    • 11 p.m. – 9.a.m.
Additional lane closures after bridge installation
  • Aug. 31 – Sept. 3
    • Once the girders are installed, we will need to close lanes of I-5 to prepare the bridge for the next step in the construction process.
    • Two lanes in each direction will be closed immediately north and south of the new 70th Avenue Bridge in Fife
      • I-5 northbound: 7 p.m. – 4 a.m.
      • I-5 southbound: 9:30 p.m. – 6 a.m.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Quick actions help prevent a work zone tragedy

By Mike Allende

Having the right equipment in place is important, but without the right people, that equipment can only go so far. And this past Sunday, Aug. 16, we had the right person in the right place at the right time.

Our bridge maintenance crew was at the south end of Seattle's I-5 Ship Canal bridge doing work Sunday morning. Traffic control was set up and a truck mounted attenuator (TMA) was in place protecting the crews. That's when our worker in the TMA noticed a vehicle going around our traffic cones, entering the work zone in an apparent attempt to exit at the closed Roanoke ramp.
When a truck entered a work zone and headed to road workers, our driver in his work truck was able
to pin it against a barrier to avoid tragedy.

Seeing the truck headed for our workers, the driver in the TMA quickly maneuvered his vehicle to force the encroaching truck over to the right, pinning it between the attenuator and the barrier. His quick actions prevented a potential tragedy and we are so thankful for that.

The Washington State Patrol found the driver of the other vehicle was not impaired but was charged with negligent driving.
By staying alert, our colleague in his attenuator truck cut a vehicle off as it entered a closed work zone, protecting our road crew. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

What's even more remarkable about the story is this was our worker's second incident in his attenuator this year. In late February his TMA was struck by a vehicle racing around slower traffic before the lane closed for a work zone. Our colleague had just returned to work in July after recovering from injuries sustained in that crash.

While we are thankful for our teammate's quick actions and that no one was seriously injured in the most recent incident, work zone collisions are an all-too-frequent part of our road crews' lives. The workers are someone's parent, child, spouse, sibling or friend. They are more than just a hard hat and work vest, and they want to go home safely at the end of the day.
Our truck mounted attenuator is designed to protect work crews and that’s what it did, when our TMA driver stopped a truck that entered a work zone and headed for our crew. (Photo courtesy Washington State Patrol)

Please do your part to help make that happen. Always stay alert for signs indicating an upcoming work zone. Slow down, and give crews as much room as possible. And never – NEVER – enter a road or lane that is closed. It is there for a reason, and that reason is almost always for everyone's safety. Our crews work hard to keep our highways as safe as possible. Please help them out by keeping them safe as well.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Keeping construction going – and crews safe – during a pandemic

By Beth Bousley

Summer is usually one of our busiest seasons – between maintenance and construction projects, it's typically full speed ahead. Crews are working on road repair, paving, chip seal, and other improvement projects – helping to keep people and goods moving throughout Washington state.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, though, all of that came to a screeching halt. As part of the statewide Stay Home, Stay Healthy orders, most of our construction and maintenance projects were put on hold until we could ensure the safety of our employees and travelers under new safety guidelines.

What do you do when faced with a shutdown caused by something as unprecedented as a pandemic? You get busy. Over the next month, our representatives worked with the Governor's Office, state departments of Health and Labor and Industries and our partners in labor, trades and contractors to help develop the safety guidelines that would be needed for the phased Safe Start return-to-work. We – including our contractor partners – also worked hard to ensure every crew and project would meet the new guidelines. No jobsite was allowed to operate until a contractor could meet and maintain all requirements. Contractors prepared detailed site-specific safety plans and worked hard to gather the required materials, equipment and update schedules. Contractors and our own construction and maintenance crew members also needed to complete mandatory COVID-19 training and show how they would comply with the 30 new safety protocols.

Everyone took these safety rules seriously and were ready to go a month later when Phase 1 construction was allowed to restart on projects that could be done while keeping workers 6 feet apart and later in Phase 2 construction when close proximity work could occur with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE for short). As a result, today, we have 142 active construction projects across the state and all are in full swing.
Working on the BNSF railroad realignment on the North Spokane Corridor.

A different look

If you drive past any of our jobsites today, things look different. Workers are leaving more space between themselves and others, and those who cannot physically distance while completing their tasks are wearing more PPE including eye protection, masks and gloves. Sites are also more sanitary with hand and tool wash stations and cleaning and disinfecting are a priority.
I-5 Southbound HOV construction workers in Tacoma had visual reminders about
how to stay 6 feet apart.

We're very pleased to see that strict adherence to safety guidelines by our staff and our contractor crews appear to be highly effective. The current rate of COVID-positive tests on our construction projects is approximately one-fifth, or 20%, of the statewide rate with seven confirmed COVID cases out of 5,000 people as of July 27. That's a testament to the dedication of our contractors and their crews as well as our own staff supervising and assisting with compliance.

Together with our contractors, we have taken steps to help us identify and isolate any workers testing positive for COVID-19 to keep the virus from spreading. We ensure a contractor-designated supervisor is at every job site to monitor the health of employees and enforce the COVID-19 job safety plan. Employees are trained on proper use of PPE and safety guidelines, and there is consistent reinforcement of expectations, temperature screening, mask use and handwashing.
Getting ready for on-site temperature screening.

Today, these new procedures have become part of our everyday work habits. Everyone wants to keep working now that we're back on the job, so we are glad that our field inspectors at construction sites and maintenance supervisors closely monitor work activities. They have the authority to shut down a job site or maintenance work if the safety protocols are not followed.
A washing station and posted guidelines have been added to portable toilets at construction
sites, including this one on the I-5 Berkeley Street overpass construction site.

Safety first, always

In Spokane, for example, we're in the midst of a complicated, time-sensitive project to replace the century-old Spokane River East Trent Bridge. The project requires work in and out of the water and has strict "in water work windows" to safeguard fish and habitat. Delay on any one part of the project has a cascading effect on all the others and jeopardizes the completion timeline. But, when a subcontractor crew showed up without masks a few weeks ago, safety took precedent over deadlines. Work was temporarily stopped until proper PPE was secured and only then once everyone had masks did work continue. It was critical that everyone work together to make sure guidelines were followed for work to continue. The relationships we have with the contractors we work with are important and all of us value the safety of our employees on the job.
Maintenance crew wearing full PPE on Trent Avenue Bridge in Spokane

Sometimes, however, we must postpone the work to ensure the safety of our employees. In eastern Washington, where the summers are glorious, but hot, maintenance crews working with hot asphalt and machinery are at risk of overheating. When they wear the bulkier forms of PPE – such as huge air filtration systems, and fully enclosed face coverings – that heat can seem even hotter. As a result, some maintenance projects are being delayed until cooler weather arrives in late summer or fall.
Complying with physical distancing and PPE guidelines on the North Spokane
Corridor BNSF railroad realignment project.

We will continue to overcome challenges and learn lessons along the way, but one message is clear: work on our projects means following all safety guidelines. We take it seriously because our ability to demonstrate safety compliance is critical to ensuring this vital construction and maintenance work can continue. The work can't get done if all of our people aren't safe and healthy, and at the end of the day, we all "wear orange". By keeping workers safe, not only does the work keep going, but people stay employed and we help keep families and friends safe as we all navigate this public health crisis together.
US 12 crack sealing near Naches. Crews stay safe with a variety of PPE during the hot work.

Like you, we long for the day when we'll be able to get back to normal – to go to the store without a mask, to go on a walk without avoiding the people we meet (even eye contact – what's that about?), and to sit inside at a table with friends and family. We hope that day comes soon. In the meantime, we are glad to be back at work, and will do whatever we can to keep our staff and contractors going strong while continuing to serve the traveling public – safely.
Repairing the bridge deck of the I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge
with masks and distance between other workers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Rescue drills pay off again at Hood Canal Bridge

By Doug Adamson

They are more than the operators and caretakers of the State Route 104 Hood Canal Bridge. Our crews on occasion become rescuers of people who run into trouble while navigating the fast-moving icy waters of Hood Canal.
SR 104 crew members Grayson Pennell (left) and Tyler Neal – in a photo taken pre-COVID-19 safety regulations –
inspect the Hood Canal Bridge. They were recently part of a team that helped rescue
a scuba diver from the frigid water near the bridge.

Just before noon on Aug. 11, our crew was alerted by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office of a boater in distress. They sprang into action after spotting a drifting kayak in the water near the bridge. While one crew member kept an eagle-eye on the kayaker, others launched the bridge's inflatable zodiac boat. That's no small task since we need to use a portable crane to launch the vessel from the bridge.

After lowering into the water, our team soon reached the kayak, where one person was still onboard but a scuba diver was struggling to get out of the water and back onto the boat. The crew helped the diver out of their diving equipment, and the diver was able to safely climb back onto the kayak.

All of this happened within minutes of being alerted by the Sheriff's Office.
Our Hood Canal Bridge crews have assisted in several emergencies including this one in 2019
when a large boat began to sink after taking on water.

Training pays off

The crew had recently sharpened their skills for just such an incident in a rescue drill involving someone who had fallen into the water. Crews typically do this type of training and drill twice a year.

This is far from the first time the bridge crew has assisted someone in distress. Last summer they quickly deployed to help as a boat was sinking off the bridge. The well-trained staff again used the zodiac boat to help in a time of need. Another incident involved crews who came to the aid of two people and two dogs who went into the frigid waters after their canoe overturned. We're proud of the efforts our team makes in these emergencies.

We thank our fantastic crew members Tyler Neal, Daniel Berton, Grayson Pennell, Chris Middleton, and Mark Epstein for their efforts to help others when needed!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Progress being made on I-90 emergency repair

Travel challenges will remain until work is done by Friday

By Mike Allende

The bad news? Travel on eastbound I-90 at Stampede Pass on Monday, Aug. 17, was really rough, as expected. With the highway closed due to emergency pavement repairs – traffic is being detoured to the off- and on-ramps at exit 62 nine miles east of Snoqualmie Pass – we saw significant backups and delays. The project is scheduled to be complete by Friday morning, but until then we are likely to continue to see heavy congestion. At best it's frustrating to sit in that kind of traffic, we get it.

The good news? Crews are making good progress. When many of you passed by the closure area you didn't see work happening. The work zone is located in a spot that isn't very visible. But crews are working 10-plus hours a day and on Monday, contractors took out 42 concrete panels, removing about 300 cubic yards of material. That's more than 20 full dump truck loads.
Contractor crews work on emergency pavement repairs
on I-90 near Stampede Pass.

There's never a good time to do this kind of work, especially on such a major highway. If we could do it overnight, on a weekend, in the winter, or with just one lane closed, we would. And while we are making adjustments based on what we've seen, in order to get this emergency repair done as quickly as possible for everyone's safety, it has to be done within these parameters.

OK, but why can't you do it at night?

Why does this have to happen in the middle of the day? It's a fair question. Like building a house, road work progresses in stages. You can't put on the roof before the walls are done. In this case, panels have to be removed first, then the surface under the panels has to be repaired. Next, drainage gets installed, then shoulders have to be rebuilt before finally, the lanes can be repaved and restriped in order to open.

The materials that are needed to get a lot of this work done aren't available in the middle of the night. They're only available during the day. In large part the work schedule is dictated by when crews have access to what they need.
The first step of the I-90 Stampede Pass emergency repairs is removing the failing concrete panels.
On Monday crews removed 42 of them.

Fine, but what about weekends?

Again, there's no good time to do work on I-90. It's an incredibly busy highway. But this time of year, it's busier during the weekends than on weekdays. While people are still being asked to limit non-necessary travel due to COVID-19, we know that a lot of people are taking road trips, many of those road trips are across I-90, and many of them are on weekends. We are trying to affect the least amount of traffic as possible and traffic volumes are simply lower during the week.

How about opening up one lane?

The safety of work crews is always our primary concern. The area where this work is happening is too narrow to safely allow one lane to remain open; there wouldn't be enough room between traffic and workers to establish a safe work zone. Also, because we're replacing concrete in both lanes, we need to close the roadway in order to complete the work as fast as possible.
Crews doing emergency repairs to I-90 near Stampede Pass prep the subgrade with geogrid,
which is put down before new concrete is poured.

Remind me what's happening

For the past several weeks, we've been making emergency patch repairs to concrete panels under the Stampede Pass interchange. We were scheduled to repave this section in the fall but the panels deteriorated faster than expected and so we accelerated the project to make permanent repairs now. The concrete just wasn't safe to allow traffic to drive on it anymore and it couldn't wait.

This section of I-90 is scheduled to be replaced in 2026 as part of the project that is widening the highway from four to six lanes between Hyak and Easton. Doing this work now avoids continuing delays on this stretch while we make temporary repairs.

We hear you

Again, we know how big of a challenge this is for drivers. We read every comment and we know how frustrated you are. While this won't help you get through the backup faster, we hope this at least helps answer some of your questions and updates you on some of the progress. 

We've made some adjustments, including updating our messaging to encourage drivers to continue up and over the ramps without stopping, which was adding to the issue on Monday. We'll have a flagger stationed at the ramp to help move traffic through, and we'll continue to monitor and make adjustments where possible. We ask that drivers please do their best to be patient, give each other space, stay alert for road workers, and if you can delay your trips until very early or very late, do so. It's not going to be easy but let's work together to do all we can to safely help this emergency repair project get done.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Going the extra mile, reuniting families all in a day’s work for our IRT heroes

By Barbara LaBoe

We often call our Incident Response Team drivers "highway heroes" and on a recent Saturday on Interstate 5 we had another stellar example when one of our drivers' quick thinking helped reunite a missing senior citizen with her family.

Our driver, though, said it's all just part of his job helping stranded motorists along the highway.

Dave Jensen was driving on I-5 on Saturday, Aug. 8, when he noticed a vehicle on the shoulder near Everett. He stopped to offer assistance and found an older woman dozing in her car. She told him her car wouldn't start and mentioned she was heading to Oregon. The woman's car was out of gas, but what alarmed Dave was that she was in the northbound lanes of I-5 headed toward Canada – about 200 miles in the wrong direction.
Dave, one of our IRT drivers, said he was happy to help when he recently found an elderly
 woman lost on I-5 and helped reunite her with her family.

On a hunch, he asked if she had a cellphone or money for the rest of her trip and she told him no. She also said she'd been following signs to Oregon, which he knew wouldn't have been posted along the roads she'd been traveling. So Dave offered to call someone for her on his phone.

"She seemed to want to talk and it just sort of clicked that she needed help," he said.

When Dave reached her daughter, he learned that the woman was from eastern Washington and hadn't arrived at her Oregon destination as planned, and that family hadn't heard from her since Thursday. They also feared she hadn't taken needed medication.
Dave, in a photo taken before his shift started so without a mask, spends his days helping stranded travelers. He says it's all in a day's work but we are very thankful we have co-workers like him out there helping others.

Dave assured the daughter he'd look out for her mom and called the Washington State Patrol for a trooper to respond, something he's had to do a couple of times during his 10 years as an IRT driver. The trooper took the woman to a hospital and put staff in touch with the daughter so she could stay up to date on her mom as she made the four-hour trip over to Everett.

"He could have simply given the elderly lady gas, that is all she needed (to get back on the road), and she would have been on her way," the trooper wrote WSDOT. "We are very lucky to have people like Dave out here working with us keeping people safe … he made a huge positive difference in many people's lives. This sad situation turned into a positive one."

We couldn't agree more. Our IRT drivers spend their days lending a hand to travelers when they need a tire changed, some gas or other assistance. They often do this inches from active traffic so we always ask motorists to move over if possible and give our crews extra room to work safely.

Dave, though, said he was just doing his job.

"It's just another day on the job," he said, adding he loves being able to help travelers as well as the adrenaline and constantly changing situations of the IRT job.

We're so thankful the woman and her family were reunited and extremely proud that Dave – one of our IRT heroes – helped make that happen. Thank you Dave and all of our IRT staff across the state for all that you do.

Take a look around – All the way around

By Laura Newborn

We’re trying something new in this virtual world so many of us are living in now. Our Puget Sound Gateway Program is rolling out 360-degree interactive views of construction in progress on the 70th Avenue East Bridge project in Fife. This technology lets you be the driver inside a construction zone.

Click the photo below and you’ll see an aerial overview of the project. From there, pick the place you want to see more of. You can spin around the site and zoom in and out with ease.
360° interactive views

For now, we are updating the pictures monthly, so photos are not in real time. If you want an up-to-the-minute view, our real-time construction cameras are the way to go.

Showing you all angles of construction is a great way to let everyone watch this important project take shape. The new four-lane bridge will replace a nearby two-lane bridge and improve freight mobility, reduce congestion and offer new bike and walking options. It is scheduled to open in Summer 2021.

The work is part of Puget Sound Gateway’s SR 167 Completion Project, which will extend SR 167 from Puyallup to I-5 and I-5 to the Port of Tacoma.

Important reminder!

Interstate 5 will close in both directions for two consecutive overnights Friday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Aug. 29, so crews can install the record-sized pre-cast girders that will support the new 70 Avenue East Bridge. I-5 between Federal Way and Fife will be closed from 11 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next morning with additional lane closures before and after. Additional information is available online in our previous blog on this project.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Plan ahead – SR 548 closure north of Ferndale adds detours, extra time to trips

By Tom Pearce

We're working to improve how fish travel through California Creek near Ferndale, but to do that we need to send highway travelers on a bit of a side trip.

With a lot of projects, reducing I-5 from two lanes to one would be the project's biggest effect on drivers. That's not the case with our I-5 and SR 548 California Creek fish passage project. The most noticeable part of this work will be that from Aug. 24-29, people will follow a noticeably lengthy detour around the SR 548/Grandview Road and Portal Way construction site. This detour affects travelers wanting to head west on SR 548 from I-5 as well as anyone traveling north or south on Portal Way from the I-5 interchange. Through traffic on I-5 will not be detoured.

No room for a bypass lane

Earlier in this project, our contractor built a bypass lane between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-5 so traffic could skirt the construction but keep moving along the usual corridor. However, the SR 548 culvert we're replacing is between Portal Way and BNSF railroad tracks. There is no room for a bypass. This means we need to temporarily close the SR 548/Portal Way intersection and detour travelers around the area.
This bypass lane works on I-5 to route traffic around construction,
but we don't have the space to build one on SR 548.
Safety first

Closing the area will provide a safe space for the men and women working on this project. It will also ensure safe passage for people traveling through the area.

Plan ahead

Signed detours will route traffic off I-5 at Portal Way from the south or Birch Bay-Lynden Road to the north. The Portal Way detour – for passenger vehicles only – will add a few minutes to the trip. The detour via Birch Bay-Lynden Road – which semi-trucks will need to take – adds about 7 miles and 15 minutes for travelers. For people on foot, bicycle or wheelchair that want to go north or south on Portal Way, our contractor, Kiewit, will provide an escort past the work zone. We'll also be sure people can still get to the Petro Food Mart at the corner of Portal Way and SR 548, just west of I-5.
Detour around the Aug. 24-29 SR 548 and Portal Way intersection closure.

Improving fish passage

Before we started this project, four small culvert pipes limited the flow of California Creek under SR 548, I-5 and Zell Road just east of I-5. During times when salmon are migrating, the water was forced too quickly through the pipes for fish to continue upstream. We've replaced the culverts under I-5 and Zell Road with larger box culverts that allow for natural creek beds. This opens up about three miles of additional habitat for salmon and other aquatic life in the creek. 
This larger culvert will have a natural creek bed, allowing fish in California Creek
to continue farther upstream to additional spawning grounds.

Replacing the pipe under SR 548 with a box culvert will open an additional 3.5 miles of habitat. It's one of the final steps of the project, though some smaller single-lane closures with traffic directed by flaggers may take place as work is wrapping up.

This work is better for the fish and other wildlife in the creek and also helps fulfill part of our obligations under a federal court injunction.

Thank you

With these changes, we know it is going to take longer to get to many businesses and destinations. We appreciate the adjustments people have made, and will continue to make during construction. This is one of our biggest fish passage projects yet and we thank everyone in advance for helping us continue this progress.

Monday, August 10, 2020

2020 has been tough on I-90 and its travelers – but some relief is on the way for Stampede Pass

By Summer Derrey and Meagan Lott

2020 isn't shaping up to be anyone's favorite year and we know that includes summer travelers on I-90. If you've recently been over Snoqualmie Pass or across the Vantage Bridge you've seen us repairing these areas more frequently and you also may have been caught in related traffic backups.

Why do these emergency repairs happen? Many parts of our infrastructure are old and are getting older. Limited state funding after decades of underfunded maintenance and perseveration needs means we now have to repair rather than replace many of these areas. We monitor them and make repairs as soon as a problem is noted – but by definition those emergency repairs aren't scheduled and often require last-minute lane closures to safely complete. And, continuing 2020's general theme, the recent events on the Vantage Bridge and Stampede Pass happened on Friday afternoons – the worst possible time on a weekend as people are heading out to travel.

Of course on a Friday afternoon when you and your family are just looking to get out of the house in a safe way, no one is thinking about preservation and maintenance funding. And we know getting stuck in an unexpected backup is frustrating. That's why we're happy to say we've moved up some planned work on Stampede Pass that should prevent further emergency closures for several years.
Left: Broken concrete panels prompt the closure of an eastbound lane on I-90 near the Stampede Pass Interchange. Right: Our maintenance crews make emergency repairs to broken concrete panels on I-90 near the Stampede Pass Interchange.

Stampede Pass - prepare for construction this month as we make some longer-lasting repairs
Wear and tear on Stampede Pass isn't new and we already had scheduled some repairs for the fall. But last month crews noticed that broken concrete panels under the eastbound Stampede Pass interchange – 9 miles east of the summit – were in danger of popping up into traffic. That required emergency closures and resulted in a 15-mile backup. Our crews worked hard and completed the temporary repairs within 24 hours of their discovery, but we know that still delayed many travelers.

This incident caused us to move up some repair work that had been scheduled for later this year. That project now begins Monday, Aug. 10, and when complete it should hold the road over until the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East widening project completely replaces this section of I-90 in 2026. Of course, moving the project up does mean there will be some additional construction and closures, but here is the information you will need to help you plan your trip over the next two weeks as we make these needed repairs.

Stampede Pass project details
Over the next two weeks, crews will be working to restore the section of broken pavement under the Stampede Pass interchange on eastbound I-90, milepost 62.

During the week of Aug. 10
  • The on- and off-ramps at the Stampede Pass interchange will be closed Wednesday, Aug. 12, and Thursday, Aug. 13, at exit 62 for repairs.
  • To access Stampede Pass Road, drivers can travel east to exit 63, then turn around and travel west on I-90. The westbound ramps will not be affected.
  • The detour for ramp access is an approximately 2-mile round trip and there should not be delays for thru-drivers on the highway.

During the week of Aug. 17

  • Crews will remove and replace the concrete panels on I-90 directly under the Stampede Pass interchange.
  • This section is very narrow and will require either a full or partial closure for the safety of our crews.
  • Drivers are advised to follow message board directions about reduced speeds of 25 mph and detours using the on- and off-ramps at the Stampede Pass interchange.
  • Crews will be working around the clock in order to complete this work.
  • Drivers will experience delays of up to 5 miles Monday, Aug. 17 through Thursday, Aug. 20.
  • It's imperative for drivers to either delay their trips the week of Aug. 17 or consider taking alternate routes in order to avoid these delays and backups.
Vantage Bridge
We also had a couple of unplanned closures on the Vantage Bridge earlier this summer, when holes developed on the bridge deck pavement. Once again our crews shut down lanes and completed repairs in less than 24 hours – but it still caused backups and delays. And this wasn't the first time this has happened. The deck was last replaced in the 1980s; in 2019 we did 12 separate deck repairs on the bridge.
Left: A large hole in the bridge deck requires the closure of an eastbound lane on the Vantage Bridge for emergency repairs. Right: Our bridge crew use a quick dry compound to patch a hole in the bridge deck across the Vantage Bridge.

Unfortunately, there isn't any current or planned funding for the permanent fix to this problem – a full deck replacement. Just like putting a new roof on your house versus patching a new hole, the permanent fix is much more expensive – $11 million – and dozens of other bridges have even more urgent repair needs across the state and are prioritized higher.

There is no quick fix for this issue because our entire transportation system faces a $690 million annual backlog in maintenance and preservation costs. But, while we work to increase funding our crews are still out doing their best to make the longest-lasting patches possible on this well-traveled bridge and across the state.

We ask for your patience and understanding when this happens on this bridge or other roadways across the state, knowing our crews are working as quickly as possible to keep people and goods moving.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Back-to-back closures coming to the I-90 Barker Road interchange in Spokane

Update: August 25, 2020
Update on Barker Rd construction: closure for the north roundabout has been extended one day to Wednesday am, August 26th. Once it is open, crews will close EB I-90 on and off-ramps and Barker Road to construct the south roundabout. It is still scheduled to reopen Sept. 4.
By Ryan Overton

The dog days of summer are here, and so is road construction. We know people joke about the summer months being filled with road construction, but all kidding aside, summer really is construction season. That's because so many of our projects need consistently dry weather for materials to harden and cure.

Eastern Washington especially has a shortened construction season due to the chance for snow starting in late October through late spring – this year snow lasted through early April. In theory, we get about six months a year to complete any major construction. This year is no different.
Crews are grading the ground near Barker Rd. and I-90 in preparation for the
roundabout at the westbound I-90 on/off-ramps.

In order to complete two new roundabouts at the Barker Road interchange improvement project in one construction season, the contractor is working around the clock to finish construction by Friday, Sept. 4, ahead of Labor Day weekend.

However, an aggressive schedule means full closures and detours in order to complete the work safely and on time. You may remember last year that at the Medical Lake/SR 902 interchange with I-90 there was a complete shutdown of SR 902 and the westbound I-90 interchange. Crews closed the intersection and constructed and completed the second of three roundabouts on the project in a total of 10 days.
Crews are preparing the ground to build the new roundabout at the eastbound I-90 on/off-ramps.

This same approach is being used for the Barker Road interchange. We're adding one roundabout on the north side of Barker Road at the westbound I-90 interchange and a second roundabout to the south at the eastbound I-90 interchange with Barker Road. But to do this, we need to shut down the entire interchange for a month.

Why completely shut down the intersection and ramps?
When constructing a roundabout, normally the timeline can take six to seven weeks. You build the roundabout in phases to allow traffic to move through the area. However, by fully closing the intersection, we can build the roundabout all at once. It also creates a much safer environment for crews and travelers without having live traffic moving through the work zone.

Constructing the roundabouts
The first closure is for construction of the north roundabout. The closure will begin on Monday, Aug. 10, beginning at 4 a.m. Crews will close the westbound on- and off-ramps from I-90 to Barker Road and also close Barker Road from the eastbound I-90 intersection north to Boone Road. The closure on the north roundabout is expected to last 15 days, putting the completion of the roundabout on Monday, Aug. 24. This closure will be the longer of the two due to utilities and traffic signals in the area. Crews will also have the ability to do some of the prep work near the south roundabout due to the overpass being closed.
Detour routes for the eastbound I-90 on and off-ramp and Barker Rd. closure.

Immediately following the completion of the north roundabout we will completely close the south intersection at the eastbound I-90 on- and off-ramps at Barker Road. This will be a slightly shorter closure of only 10 days to construct the second roundabout. Work will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 25, and continue through Friday, Sept. 4, just ahead of the Labor Day weekend.
Detour routes for the westbound I-90 on and off-ramp and Barker Rd. closure.

Navigating the closures
  • Westbound I-90 and Barker Road closure (north roundabout) beginning at 10 a.m., Monday, Aug. 4
    • Travelers who are using westbound I-90 and need access to Barker Road will have to use either the Liberty Lake/Harvard interchange to the east or Sullivan Road interchange to the west.
    • Travelers needing access to westbound I-90 will be directed to the Sullivan Road on-ramps to the west.
    • Travelers using eastbound I-90 and needing access to North Barker Road can still use the Barker Road interchange. The detour will take you back west on Appleway Avenue, north on Flora Road, and then east on Indiana/Mission Avenue to reconnect to Barker Road.
    • The eastbound I-90 off-ramp will close intermittently at night during construction of the north roundabout. The eastbound on-ramp will remain closed during construction of both roundabouts.
    • Special access will be given to businesses on Cataldo Avenue via a signed detour by taking Mission and Hodges Road to Boone Avenue and through the Lone Wolf Business Access on Boone Avenue.
  • Eastbound I-90 and Barker Road closure (south roundabout) beginning roughly 6 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 25
    • Eastbound I-90 travelers needing to exit at Barker Road will detour at the Sullivan Road interchange to access Barker Road south of the interchange. Drivers needing access north of the Barker Road interchange will continue east to the Liberty Lake/Harvard interchange, travel north on Harvard Road before heading west on Mission Avenue to reconnect with Barker Road.
    • Travelers needing access to westbound I-90 will be detoured to the Sullivan Road interchange.
    • Travelers needing access to eastbound I-90 will have direct access via the Greenacres on-ramp or the Liberty Lake/Harvard interchange.
While this will be an extended closure of the intersection, working around the clock will allow us to complete the project before the winter shutdown and avoid prolonging congestion in the intersection. Once open, drivers of the Barker Road interchange will utilize the roundabouts and traffic will flow seamlessly through the area. Thank you in advance for your patience while our crews make the most of the last weeks of summer.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Elementary, my dear WSDOT

Some cool tools – aka underground detectives – do the dirty work under SR 203 when we aren't able to

By Frances Fedoriska

A level of "subterranean sleuthing" will help us determine why a portion of State Route 203 suddenly shifted earlier this year. Without Sherlock Holmes around, we can't crack this case without the help of some devices designed for undercover dirty jobs like the one unfolding under the highway between Carnation and Duvall.

Following a landslide in early 2020, we planted multiple devices under mounds of dirt, rocks and debris under the highway. Since then, they've been collecting information needed to design a fix for the slide – in places and times when we can't access the area.
Exhibit C – for "cracks." This gash in the asphalt on SR 203 shows how much the ground underneath
the roadway moved during a slide earlier this year.

Exhibit A: The timeline
Here's a quick recap of how we got here:
  • Early 2020 – A slide causes part of the southbound lane between Carnation and Duvall to give way. Since then the lane has been closed with traffic alternating through northbound SR 203.
  • March 23, 2020 – The global pandemic prompts the Governor to issue a "Stay Home" order to slow the spread of COVID-19, halting most construction in our state to keep workers safe and at home. 
  • June 19, 2020 – King County enters Phase 2 of the "Safe Start" reopening plan. This gives our personnel permission and new guidelines to safely get back to work in the field, investigating the cause of the slide.  
  • July 15, 2020 – SR 203 closes for a day allowing crews to access the area and collect subsurface information from devices installed into the sinking side of the roadway. We also searched for a historic waterline in the northbound shoulder.
Star witnesses: inclinometers and piezometers
Inclinometers measure embankment movement. The metal casing – basically a large, specialized pipe – is placed inside a hole drilled into the roadway and then bends when the ground or road around it moves. A probe is lowered into the casing to measure any deformations to determine how much movement happened since the previous reading.
Two key devices, both resembling metal coffee tins, tell us what is happening under the highway by
measuring movement without tearing up the road.

Piezometers monitor groundwater levels underneath the road. This is crucial to predicting future movement needed to prevent future slides. An open standpipe piezometer -- a long, narrow pipe placed inside a bore hole -- collects groundwater. Periodic manual readings of how deep the water level is shows whether there's a change – or movement – in the ground below that allows water to seep up or out of the ground.
In late July we took manual readings from the piezometer to monitor groundwater levels under the roadway.

Next steps
It will take a few weeks to assemble all the clues and translate the data we've collected into a confirmed source of the slide. Once we know the cause, engineers will design a solution that fixes the damage done and prevents future occurrences so we can safely reopen all lanes of SR 203.
Masked up and physically distanced, a crew member enters measurements into the system. The data logged in the
field will be analyzed by our geotechnical team in Olympia.

Thank you for your patience
We understand travelers are frustrated with the delays and speed at which this project is unfolding. We are too. At this time, there is no date for when construction may begin, but our goal remains getting started before the next rainy season.

To stay up to date on the developments, sign up for WSDOT's King County updates. A project webpage will be added to the WSDOT website once this mystery is solved.