Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Replacing expansion joints: You never know what you’ll find

By Tom Pearce

Expansion joints are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get, to paraphrase Mama Gump’s famous movie advice.

In both cases, the only way to find out what you get is by opening it. This past weekend our Revive I-5 contractor, CA Carey, found things pretty much as expected in downtown Seattle as crews replaced expansion joints and repaired pavement on the 1960s era highway. This allowed them to finish replacing the five scheduled expansion joints by mid-afternoon Sunday, June 26.

When crews have finished early, we’ve received questions about why we can’t do more joints each weekend. But, it’s important to note that work doesn’t always wrap up early, according to our contractor.

“Next weekend we could do the same kind of joints and barely get off the road in time,” the project superintendent said.

The expansion joints that were replaced in downtown Seattle last weekend were
 exactly what we expected, but that’s not always the case.

When our contractors do work like this, we provide the original plans. But those plans are nearly 60 years old, and sometimes don’t reflect the reality of what was built long ago. When that happens, our contractors have to adapt and adjust.

Then you add in factors like weather. Yes, rain can and has been a factor this year. Extreme heat can get in the way too. Ironworkers cut out the old joints and install the new ones. They need to wear heavy protective equipment, which can be tough on a 90-degree day. If it gets hot enough, like last year when we had temperatures over 100 degrees, that can even affect when concrete can be poured.

So far this year, CA Carey has finished each weekend with time to spare because just about everything has gone smoothly. When that happens, we reopen the closed lanes early and announce it to travelers. But we’ve had other projects that have taken until early Monday mornings, and it could happen any weekend on this one as well.

Why not do more?

If it looks like we’ll finish early, unfortunately we can’t just decide to do an extra joint or two. During the week leading up to the freeway lane reductions, our contractors are busy underneath I-5 preparing for the weekend work. This involves cutting materials and making other changes to help the surface work go smoothly.

Each weekend our contractor prepares to do a certain number of joints, working in advance
 under the freeway and bringing in needed materials.

Working on more joints than originally planned would also involve bringing in additional materials that are stored off-site. Some of those may not be readily available on short notice.

Planning ahead

We’re going to work every weekend now through the end of August, including Independence Day weekend, which will mean lane reductions Saturday and Sunday, July 2-3. We’ll start lane reductions later than usual, at 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 1, to help folks who aren’t able to leave town earlier that day. We’ve found that by the time we get to Saturday of a holiday weekend, traffic is a lot like most Saturdays. But we still are asking travelers to be aware of the lane closures and plan their holiday travel accordingly. We know closing lanes on major roads is frustrating but we need the space for crews to safely work and the time to allow new pavement to cure – and this work can’t be done just overnight.

For people traveling, every weekend this summer you’ll want to consider alternatives:

  • Other routes, like I-405
  • Modes of transportation like light rail or bus
  • Traveling early (before 9 a.m.) or later (after 8 p.m.)

With the arrival of summer, we know everyone wants to get out and enjoy all our region has to offer. While we’re working, you still can have fun. Just plan ahead – maybe even treat yourself to a box of chocolates.

New! Parking-protected bike lanes coming to Mill Plain Boulevard in downtown Vancouver this summer

By Kayla Dunn

We're adding a number of travel and safety improvements for those who bike and park in downtown Vancouver – including some changes that users should be aware of along Mill Plain Boulevard (State Route 501).

Crews will complete striping on Mill Plain Boulevard this month, the final phase of work along SR 501, I-5 and the Port of Vancouver. Once the striping work is complete, travelers will notice new ways to park and bike with the addition of new parking-protected bike lanes and the use of two-stage bike boxes. Striping changes will appear on Mill Plain Boulevard between I-5 and the Port of Vancouver, with the parking-protected bike lanes on the stretch of Mill Plain Boulevard between I-5 and Columbia Street.

A look at the layout of improvements on East Mill Plain Boulevard, including how parking-protected bike lanes
 along the curb will add an additional buffer between bicyclists and vehicles.
An example of parking-protected bike lane in downtown Vancouver on Columbia Street
 near 11th Street with the bike plane on the curb side of the parked car

What are parking-protected bike lanes?

Parking-protected bike lanes improve overall safety by better protecting people riding bikes from nearby vehicular traffic. The new bike lanes are now on the curb side of the parking lane spots, rather than next to active traffic, which lets the parking spots create an additional buffer between moving vehicles and bicyclists. They also are wider – expanded from the previous 4 feet to 5 1/2 feet with an additional 2-foot buffer.

Crews also painted bike lanes green at intersections to help raise drivers' awareness of bicyclists along the roadway. The green paint also serves as a continuous reminder to people driving vehicles of the possibility of bicyclists present on the roadway as they merge or change lanes. Motorists should only park in designated spaces between the travel lane and the bike lane and take care when exiting the parking space. Bicyclists should use caution when entering and exiting the bike lanes and when crossing at intersections.

An example of how green paint near intersections helps indicate newly added bike boxes in downtown Vancouver.

How to use two-stage bike boxes

  • Two-stage left turn boxes are designed to give bicyclists a safe way to turn left through an intersection.
  • To use these bikes boxes, bicyclists should cross straight through the intersection at a green light and wait in the green box near to the curb.
  • People diving vehicles should wait for the signal to change and then cross with the green light.
  • At intersections that include a bike box, no right turn is allowed on red.

Project highlights

Other parts of this project that are already completed within downtown Vancouver, include:

  • Upgraded pedestrian crossing signals, which provide visual and audio cues notifying people when it is safe to cross. These include directional flashing arrows and countdown timers so people know how much time they have to cross the road safely.
  • New curb ramps that meet current ADA standards. Curb ramps help people of all abilities safely transition from a roadway to a curbed sidewalk and vice versa.
  • Upgraded traffic lights on East Mill Plain Boulevard at Columbia Street, Main Street, and Broadway Street that allow for better clearance by freight traffic.
  • A new pedestrian-activated rectangular rapid-flashing beacon at the southbound I-5 off ramp to East Mill Plain Boulevard.
Mill Plain Boulevard as it looked previously.

Improving freight movement and traffic movement for all

To help improve freight travel and the movement of goods, crews have reconstructed the intersections of East Mill Plain Boulevard at Washington Street and Main Street. These improvements eliminate the need for trucks hauling oversized loads from the Port of Vancouver to I-5 to navigate around sections of East Mill Plain Boulevard using local city streets. Trucks used to have do that because high points in the roadway and low-hanging traffic lights impeded the routes. Using the local streets often resulted in long loads bottoming out and slowing overall traffic This work will help improve travel and safety for all users.

We've got a lot of additional work coming to Clark County this summer. To help you know before you go, we encourage you to sign up to receive email updates or text alerts and download our mobile app.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

To Revive I-5, we need to work almost every weekend – even Pride and Independence Day

By Tom Pearce

It's been a challenging season for replacing expansion joints on southbound Interstate 5 from I-90 to Spokane Street in Seattle. We've had a couple of rainouts and we didn't work the weekend of June 18-19 due to the closure of I-405 in Bellevue.

Our contractor, C.A. Carey, plans to do this work over 15 weekends. So far, they've only be able to work two of the five scheduled. And with the possibility of more rain this season, we're taking steps to avoid further delays to this critical work.

That's why we are working June 25-26, Pride weekend, and have decided to work July 2-3, Independence Day weekend too. Usually we don't work major events or holiday weekends if it can be avoided, but after many discussions, we believe it can and has to be done.

Thanks mostly to poor weather, we've only been able to work two of five scheduled weekends on the Revive I-5 project. That's about to change as there will be work almost every weekend into September replacing expansion joints on southbound I-5 in Seattle.

Pride weekend

Sunday's Pride Parade will draw a huge crowd to downtown Seattle – estimates are 200,000 to 500,000. People are going to need to plan ahead and allow extra time – from the north to arrive, from the south to get home. People can use light rail from Northgate or the numerous southern stations. Bus service is available from many locations. If you need to drive, SR 99 will be an alternative. Just remember, if you plan to drive, with so many people converging on downtown, parking may be hard to find.

The next weekend of Revive I-5 work coincides with Pride Weekend, including the Seattle Pride Parade, so people should plan to use public transit or expect significant delays if headed to the events.

We recognize the timing of this work over Pride and the Independence Day weekends is less than ideal, but we‘re facing some very difficult decisions. This year we're also scheduled to work during a lot of major events, from Sounders and Mariners games to the Seafair Torchlight parade on July 30 and the hydro races and Blue Angels Aug. 6-7. We know this may affect your travels, but we have few alternatives. Even holidays, when we almost always shut down, are on the table now.

Starting next year, our construction in Seattle, the Eastside and south King County will ramp up and be even more impactful. The simple fact of the matter is, by wrapping up this project this season, we'll be able to ease a little pressure on the I-5 corridor next year, when two more substantial Revive I-5 projects begin.

Drivers can use the southbound collector/distributor to get into SODO, but the collector/distributor ramp and the I-90 ramps to southbound I-5 will be closed during Revive I-5 work.

Holiday weekends

Which brings us to Independence Day. Most people leave town by Friday night for a long weekend, even if it's after working a whole day. By the time we get to Saturday of a holiday weekend, traffic is pretty much the same as a regular Saturday. Seafair Summer Fourth, Seattle's Independence Day celebration at Gasworks Park, starts Monday afternoon, long after we'll have all the lanes open.

To account for those leaving town Friday night, we're going to delay lane reductions by a couple of hours. That means we'll start closing lanes at about 9:30 p.m.; we'll have the final weekend configuration in place by 11:59 p.m. Friday. Because of the later start, we will allow our contractor to keep lanes closed later, until 6:30 a.m. Monday, July 4. It's a major holiday and while some people will still need to be out and about early, we won't see anything like regular Monday morning traffic.

We plan to work pretty much every weekend from now through the end of September. At this time, our contractor is not scheduled to work Labor Day weekend, but that could change.

On Independence Day weekend, Revive I-5 work will start later Friday night to keep all lanes open for people leaving town for the holiday.

More weather problems?

On the positive side, a couple weeks ago our contractor managed to work through some really bad weather, building tents and using sandbags to keep three new expansion joints dry. With the downpours it was a major challenge, but if the forecast is only for showers or light rain, that's something we'll consider in future weekends.

We appreciate your patience as we continue this work. By this fall, we expect to have all new joints and smooth rides as we Revive I-5.

Long-term closure of the Chico Way on-ramp to southbound SR-3 starts this July

 By Doug Adamson

Construction on the SR 3 Chico Creek Fish Barrier Removal project is heating up. As soon as 9 a.m. on July 11, travelers near Bremerton will notice a big change at the interchange of SR 3 and Chico Way Northwest. The Chico Way Northwest on-ramp to southbound SR 3 will become a closed construction zone as crews realign the existing ramp. The ramp will remain closed for up to one year. During the closure, travelers will need to use alternate routes to access southbound SR 3. Variable message signs will be placed at the on-ramp for at least a week before the closure begins to remind people of the closure.

Why is the on-ramp closing?

Chico Creek and the unnamed tributary at Chico Way Northwest have five culverts that act as barriers to fish passage. Since the project began in fall 2021, our contractor, Guy F. Atkinson Construction, has been making progress on the construction of new bridges on Chico Way and SR 3. These bridges will create more space for both creeks. The work will improve fish passage and access to spawning habitat for many native fish species.

The Chico Way Northwest onramp to southbound SR 3 will close for up to a year as crews rebuild the onramp as part of a fish passage project.

To allow crews to continue work on the new bridges, we will close the existing on-ramp to southbound SR 3.

To access southbound SR 3 from Chico Way Northwest, people can continue south on Chico Way and join southbound SR 3 from Austin Drive (top). People can detour via northbound SR 3 and return to southbound SR 3 from Northwest Newberry Hill Road (bottom).


We will keep two lanes of traffic in each direction of SR 3 open during the long-term ramp closure. Crews will open the new realigned southbound SR 3 on-ramp once construction of the elevated Chico Way bridge is complete in spring 2023.
During this stage of construction, crews will shift traffic to the inside lanes of SR 3, close the Chico Way Northwest onramp to southbound SR 3, and realign the stream that flows under Chico Way Northwest.

Stay alert

Please keep our crews, yourself, and others safe by driving cautiously through work zones. We know detour routes and traffic shifts can take a little getting used to, so slow down, and stay aware so our crews can get this work done safely.

We understand this is at least an inconvenience for travelers, and we appreciate your understanding as we work through this major project.

What to expect next

Construction will continue through winter 2023. Once the project is completed, the SR 3 and Chico Way Northwest interchange will have two new bridges and new locations of the southbound SR 3 exit and on-ramps, creating more space for Chico Creek and the unnamed tributary and eliminating the need for culverts.

Once the project is complete in winter 2023, fish will have access to 21 miles of potential habitat and an improved connection to Chico Creek and Chico Bay.

Visit the project website for more information and to sign up for email updates.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Plan for major delays at the Warren Avenue bridge (SR 303) in Bremerton over three weekends

By Doug Adamson

The patchwork of concrete repairs across the Warren Avenue bridge in Bremerton illustrates a solid point. Some serious work is needed to help keep the driving surface in good working order.

We’re gearing up to make many repairs across the bridge. We’ll need your help to do it.

Over three weekends in July, the busy span will be reduced to one lane in each direction. There are no times when it's convenient to do this so we’re doing the work when there’s less traffic. Construction crews will jackhammer away failing concrete and pour back a fresh surface.

Here’s the schedule

  • 8 p.m. Friday, July 8 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 11
  • 8 p.m. Friday, July 15 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 18
  • 8 p.m. Friday, July 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 25
The Warren Avenue bridge has a patchwork of repairs across the span. Closing half of the bridge each weekend allows our crews to make numerous repairs all at once.

Important note

Crews will jackhammer out failing concrete and clean up debris. They will then pour new concrete. There might be times when you don’t see any workers while lanes are closed. This is due to the time needed for concrete to cure before it can reopen to traffic.

We’re closing half of the Warren Avenue bridge each weekend, which will create significant backups.

Short-term pain, long-term gain

It’s very important to have a driving surface that’s in good shape. It goes beyond a smoother ride. Water can do a number on bridges and highways. In this case, water seeps below the surface of the roadway and causes more damage. This can lead to unplanned lane closures while maintenance crews make emergency repairs.

Please have a strategy

Approximately 37,000 vehicles a day use this route. Our engineers believe there could be backups as much as eight miles in each direction during the weekend work.

If possible, please avoid using the bridge each weekend. If you have to go, consider traveling early in the morning or late in the day and give yourself plenty of extra time. Use transit, carpool, vanpool or work from home or remote office locations if possible. If you must drive, please don't block intersections or driveways.

Once work on one half of the bridge is complete, we’ll switch traffic over to the other side. Traffic will be down to one lane in each direction.

Stay plugged in

This work could be rescheduled due to weather. If that happens, we’ll send out the email updates for state highways in Kitsap County, project web page and our app.

A ferry tale wedding for Kentucky couple

By Justin Fujioka

It’s not every day that people get married on our ferries. But what made a recent wedding aboard Wenatchee so rare is that the bride and groom traveled more than 2,000 miles for their dream ceremony.

Lara Wilder visited Seattle for the first time in 2007 and fell in love with our ferries, finding them to be a very peaceful place to be. Years later, she would bring her boyfriend Matt to the Emerald City to share this experience. He too was instantly captivated by the ride. The Hopkinsville, Kentucky couple now regularly visit the Pacific Northwest to take in the views of Puget Sound.

Lara and Matt Wilder of Kentucky got married aboard our ferry Wenatchee while sailing from Seattle to Bainbridge on June 11.

Lara and Matt knew they wanted a special and unique wedding. Getting hitched on our ferries seemed like the perfect idea...except for the distance from home.

But they went ahead and planned to get married on our Seattle/Bainbridge route this past June 11. The couple says they were delighted to share the memorable moment with about 30 family and friends who travelled from Kentucky and South Carolina.

About 30 friends and family traveled from Kentucky and South Carolina to attend Matt and Lara Wilder’s wedding about our ferry Wenatchee on June 11.

The newlyweds are now on their honeymoon in Alaska. Their next stop? Their first of many return visits to Seattle to enjoy a ferry ride as Mr. and Mrs. Wilder! Congrats to the couple and thanks for letting us be a part of your special day!

Monday, June 13, 2022

Are you ready for upcoming closures at SR 9 and SR 204?

By Tony Black

Winter is over, the sun is shining – at least, we hope it will be at some point – and you have your sunscreen and sandals ready. But this summer brings more than just sunshine for the Lake Stevens community. As the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvements project team gears up for the final stage of construction, we want to make sure our neighbors in Lake Stevens are ready for upcoming closures too.

We're building four roundabouts at and near the SR 9/SR 204 intersection to help improve traffic flow, safety, and access to local businesses. We want to keep you in the loop, so we've set up an online open house to give you all the details. It will be available until July 25 to check out.

The final stage of the SR 9/SR 204 Intersection Improvement Project starts this summer in Lake Stevens and drivers should be prepared for detours and delays when the work kicks off.

What travelers should know

This is the third and final stage of this project. It includes three full closures, each lasting four days over non-holiday weekends. These closures will help us build improvements as quickly as possible and with minimal disruption. With the first of these closures scheduled for this summer, and the remaining two scheduled between spring and fall of 2023, we appreciate your patience as we bring changes to the area.

We'll keep you updated on the specific dates of the weekend closures. Before we do the work, we need to:

  • Post detour notices and signs on the road at least five days before any closure
  • Share detour maps at least one week in advance of the closure through social media and local community platforms
  • Work with Lake Stevens businesses to share information during full closures
  • Place police officers at intersections along the detour routes to help keep traffic moving safely
  • Divert regional traffic around other nearby routes to prevent congestion along the local detours

Why the SR9/SR204 intersection?

The SR 9/SR 204 intersection experiences congestion that affects Snohomish County travelers and freight mobility. By 2040, traffic volumes are likely to grow more than 20 percent.

We worked with the Lake Stevens community to develop a plan that incorporates their priorities with our vision of improving the area. The project includes four roundabouts and direct access in and out of Frontier Village, consistent traffic flow throughout the intersection, and features to help reduce driving speeds and severity of collisions.

Roundabouts will help traffic flow more consistently and safely through the busy SR 9/SR 204 intersection in Lake Stevens.

Thank you for staying involved!

Since we began outreach for this project in 2016, the Lake Stevens community has joined us for five in-person open houses, four business forums, 11 Stakeholder Advisory Group meetings, and more than 30 community group and business/property owner meetings!

How to learn more

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Quick reaction, experience helps crew member escape close call

By Mark Krulish

On Friday mornings, many of us check into work thinking about all the fun things we’re gearing up to do over the weekend. But when your office is on a highway and safety is the No. 1 priority, you have to be vigilant at all times – it can often be the difference between life and death, or at least serious injury.

Thankfully, our crews are trained to always be alert and safe when working on the roads, and that paid off on Friday, June 3 during a response to a washout on the Skunk Creek Bridge on US 101 in Grays Harbor County.

Traffic was reduced to one lane while crews worked on the washout and highway maintenance worker Dalyn Davis was at the head of the closure working as a flagger.

It was an ordinary day in the field – signs and advanced messaging were up, traffic was flowing well –until Dalyn noticed a semi truck approaching, and it wasn’t slowing down.

A semi truck crashed into our guardrail near US 101 Skunk Creek but thanks to quick actions by our flagger, none of our crew were hurt.

Relying on her experience – like many of her fellow crew members, she holds a commercial driver’s license – Dalyn knew she had a split second to react. She estimated the truck was headed her way at about 45-50 mph.

“What caught my attention was he stabbed his brakes, causing his brakes to lock up,” Dalyn said. “The sound caught my attention.”

In those few milliseconds, Dalyn was able to gauge which way the truck was headed. She could see the steering wheel was turned to the right, so she dashed the opposite way and escaped its path. Dalyn and the rest of the crew were unharmed and the truck hit a guardrail and went into a shallow ditch. The Washington State Patrol is determining the cause.

“I’ve never had to play chicken with a semi before,” Dalyn said.

Summer construction season is pretty much here. You will see plenty of lane closures, emergency repairs and planned work on our state roads. We know you’re eager to get to your destination; our crews know that as well. We work to keep you safe and keep traffic moving as well as we can while also keeping our crews safe while they get work done.

With lots of road work happening this summer, it’s vital that drivers stay alert, slow down and be patient as they head through work zones.

But wherever you travel, please be as vigilant as Dalyn was last Friday. Any time you see a road worker, take care to pay extra close attention to your surroundings, slow down and give them as much room as possible.

“We’re thankful to those who go slow in work zones,” Dalyn said. “They understand we’re humans and we have a family to go home to like everyone else.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Final major changes for I-5 project in Tacoma coming up

Update: Friday, June 17

The overnight closure of southbound I-5 scheduled for Wednesday, June 22 is canceled. Drivers will still see overnight lane closures on both northbound and southbound I-5 during overnight hours from June 21-24. The full nighttime closure of northbound I-5 for Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 is still scheduled. We are watching the weather and will provide updates if anything changes.

Several overnight ramp closures will be in place the night of June 24 and June 25. Please check the statewide travel map for updated information.


By Cara Mitchell

Buckle up and get ready for final changes to Interstate 5 in Tacoma. We are working to complete the last of 14 HOV construction projects and as the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road – Southbound HOV project wraps up, we have several major changes coming up that drivers will want to plan for. 

Northbound I-5 moves to final configuration

Our contractor is getting ready to put northbound I-5 into its final configuration from the SR 16 merge all the way to Fife. What does that mean? For drivers, it means there will soon be four general purpose lanes on northbound I-5, instead of three, all the way from SR 16 to Fife. It also means two new auxiliary lanes will open from the SR 16 on-ramp to the SR 167 exit, and from the I-705 on-ramp to the Portland Avenue exit.

Those who drive this section of northbound I-5 through Tacoma know firsthand that this area is notorious for backups. We are finally – FINALLY! – ready to bring some relief to drivers.

A look at the long-standing backups on northbound I-5 in Tacoma near the I-705 interchange.

When and how is this happening?  This is the first item drivers need to plan for. After 20-plus years of construction, you probably know by now we are going to need your help getting this in place.

Full closure of northbound I-5 for 2 nights

Weather permitting, overnight Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25, northbound I-5 in Tacoma will close at exit 133. Drivers will be detoured to I-705 and SR 509 and back to northbound I-5 at Port of Tacoma Road. Eastbound SR 16 drivers going to northbound I-5 will follow the same detour.

The full closure will occur from:

  • 11 p.m. Friday, June 24 until 6 a.m. Saturday, June 25
  • 11 p.m. Saturday, June 25 to 7 a.m. Sunday, June 26.

If you’re on northbound I-5 coming from Thurston County and want to avoid the detour route, drivers can take eastbound SR 512 to northbound SR 167 to westbound SR 18 or I-405 to reconnect with northbound I-5.

We know closing I-5 anytime is, at the very least, inconvenient. That said, we have an enormous amount of lane striping needed for new auxiliary lanes and a new general purpose lane through Tacoma. We’re doing this work at night when traffic volumes are substantially lower.

The near-final northbound configuration

Just to recap, below is a diagram of the existing lane configuration on northbound I-5 between SR 16 and Port of Tacoma Road. This obviously is not to scale, but it does give an accurate lane count.


Once all lanes reopen on Sunday, June 26, drivers will have four general purpose lanes and two new auxiliary lanes. The northbound I-5 HOV lane will continue to be a work zone for a few more weeks.

We plan on opening the HOV lanes sometime in July, once all median barrier is ready to go, signs are installed and HOV striping is in place. Cross your fingers for good weather, because that date could change because of rain. Unfortunately, it has been very wet this spring and it doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

Other construction items drivers need to plan for

Getting northbound I-5 into final configuration is a big milestone for anyone who uses the highway. That said, there are other nighttime construction closures coming up that we want drivers to be aware of:

  • Week of June 20: Nighttime Southbound I-5 closure at Exit 135 to Portland Avenue: We need one overnight closure of southbound I-5 during the week of June 20 to install a 103-foot-long sign bridge. The structure will span all lanes of southbound I-5 in the Portland Avenue area. Once installed, it will hold three overhead signs. In the past, we have installed these signs when sections of I-5 are in a work zone and traffic has been shifted elsewhere. This is one place we don’t have the luxury of doing that. Right now, we are looking at closing all lanes of southbound I-5 between midnight and 4 a.m. either on Wednesday, June 22 or Thursday, June 23.
The giant structure here is a sign bridge that was recently installed on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge, before we opened all lanes to drivers.
  • Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 nightly closures: In the coming weeks, crews will begin excavating materials from the old southbound I-5 embankment. To move this material out of the construction site, we need to close the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday through Thursday, for about a month. Drivers will detour to northbound I-5 to the 54th Avenue exit and back to southbound I-5. We will provide an update on when these nightly closures will start once it is available.

Opening HOV lanes

It’s really happening this summer. Right now, the contractor’s schedule is targeting mid-July. We will have more information to share after the Fourth of July.  There are some important work items that must be in place first, such as: 

  • Northbound I-5 in final configuration
  • Finish median barrier between L Street and the Puyallup River

Once the HOV lanes are opened, we will consider removing the temporary 50 mph speed limit that has been in place since 2019.

New changes require alert drivers

We are nearing the finish line with Tacoma construction. We need your continued awareness on the road to help keep everyone safe. It can take time to get used to new changes to the roadway, especially on a highway. Please be patient with other drivers. Never drive distracted. Put down the phone. Be aware of your surroundings and the speed limit. Bottom line, we’re almost done with construction on this stretch of I-5 and SR 16.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Don’t rain on our parade

By Amy Moreno

Let’s face it – a rainy weekend in June is never part of anyone’s plans! Barbra Streisand famously implored “don’t bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.” And twice this summer it’s rained on our “parade” that is the Revive I-5 work on southbound Interstate 5, forcing us to postpone planned construction.

The goal is to replace the bumpy expansion joints between I-90 and Spokane Street, some of them as old as I-5 itself.

The construction schedule was built with the likelihood we’d lose some weekends to rain. It’s the Pacific Northwest after all! When last week’s forecast showed another likely soggy shutdown, contractor CA Carey and their crews stepped up to see if they could make it work.

Their plan focused on replacing the right side of the three joints they started the weekend of May 21-22. That weekend they used a conservative approach targeting the left side of the joints at the southern end of the construction zone. Even with a potentially record-breaking rainy forecast, they went to work last Friday knowing it would be a challenge, made tougher by the moisture-sensitive polyester polymer concrete we use on this project.

Tents and sandbags work in light rain but it was a challenge when rain turned heavier
this past weekend on our Revive I-5 project.

Moisture-sensitive concrete in the PNW?

Polyester polymer concrete is a resin-based concrete material that we started using about 20 years ago. It has several benefits including providing a sort of seal in areas where the road was built with bare steel rebar, which could rust and corrode if it consistently gets wet.  

The biggest benefit might come in how fast it cures. We can open the road up in as little as four hours after its done whereas the cement concrete material could take 41 or 42 hours.

There are some downsides to polyester concrete. It can have a slightly shorter lifespan and costs about 20 percent more. Another tricky thing about this material is it’s sort of like those gremlins from the campy ’80s movie.

“You don't want to get it wet!,” bridge engineer Andre La Foe said. “That resin literally cannot mix with water. It will mess it up.”

How did it go this weekend?

Our contractors scrambled to bring in extra crews and used the knowledge they gained from the May weekend to work as efficiently as possible. They constructed tents and brought in sandbags and blowers to help them work when the rain started.

They were able to get two of the joints done and concrete poured before the sky opened up Saturday evening. They used sandbags and tents to hold off the river of water that rolled down I-5 toward the joints that were in the process of curing.

When the rain grew heavier Saturday evening, they knew it would be a losing battle to pour the third joint so they waited it out for the worst of the storm to pass.

Tents kept work areas mostly dry so crews could work on the Revive I-5 project through a wet weekend.

Sunday they sandblasted the last joint, poured the concrete and were able to open the freeway about eight hours early.

The contractor says the tents work fine when there’s a small amount of rain and could be used for future weekends with light rain in the forecast, but it was a struggle to keep the water out during Saturday’s heavy downpour. It was a difficult weekend for the crews and we applaud their efforts to move the project forward, despite the weather.

Work on the Revive I-5 project wrapped up Sunday evening as the clouds and rain moved out of the area.

It was dark when I-5 reopened but you could see the storm clouds moving out as traffic cleared. Now the project is off for two weeks and will return on June 24, hopefully with sunnier skies on the horizon and we’ll be singing our own Streisand tunes. “Happy Days Are Here Again,” perhaps?

Monday, June 6, 2022

Online open house launches for upcoming Portage Bay Bridge & Roanoke Lid Project

By Shoshana Wineburg

Critical transportation improvements are headed to Seattle’s Portage Bay and north Capitol Hill neighborhoods as we gear up to start the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program’s next big project: replacing Seattle’s aging Portage Bay Bridge, building a landscaped lid in north Capitol Hill, and completing the improved SR 520 all the way to I-5. After multiple years of planning and stakeholder collaboration, the project is forging ahead on multiple fronts to break ground for construction in 2024.

One important step is engaging with neighbors who live close to the construction area – the people who’ll be most affected by our work. That’s why we’ve launched a new Portage Bay Bridge & Roanoke lid project online open house. The open house includes information about what the community can expect and asks for neighbors’ feedback on reducing construction effects like noise, vibration, and traffic.

Like other bridges in the region, the 1960s-era Portage Bay Bridge is supported by hollow concrete columns that could collapse in a severe earthquake. This project will replace the aging Portage Bay Bridge with two parallel, three-lane bridges for eastbound and westbound traffic. The new bridges also improve travel for busses and carpools and extend the SR 520 Trail from Montlake to I-5. In addition, the project will build a “lid” over SR 520 that reconnects Seattle’s Roanoke Park and north Capitol Hill neighborhoods. The lid will include three acres of open green space with trail connections and viewpoints of the city and Portage Bay.

A visualization of a new, replacement Portage Bay Bridge between Seattle’s Montlake neighborhood and I-5. It will have two parallel, three-lane bridges, one for eastbound and one for westbound, improving travel in this busy area.

Another important feature of the new bridge is a system for capturing and treating highway runoff to keep roadway pollutants out of Portage Bay. The replacement SR 520 bridges over Union Bay feature a similar system for capturing and treating highway runoff.

The initial design for the Portage Bay Bridge and Roanoke lid began more than a decade ago, starting with the 2011-2012 Seattle Community Design Process (PDF 31MB). Additional community involvement over the years helped refine the project’s key features.

A visualization of a landscaped lid over SR 520 between 10th Avenue East and Delmar Drive East. The lid will have about three acres of green space, four viewpoints, and multiple connections to the SR 520 Trail and other paths.

The Portage Bay project is part of the larger SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program, which is rebuilding SR 520 between I-405 and I-5. The program is enhancing public safety by replacing the highway’s three aging bridges, all at risk of collapse. We’re also improving travel by adding a lane in each direction for buses and carpools on SR 520 between Seattle and King County’s Eastside cities. In addition, we created new, nonmotorized travel options by building a wide bicycle and pedestrian trail across Lake Washington – opened in 2017 – that connects to local and regional paths on both sides of the lake.

If you live close to the Portage Bay or Roanoke Park, be sure to check out our online open house to share your feedback!

The project will extend the regional SR 520 Trail from Montlake over Portage Bay to the new Roanoke lid and build a 30-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian crossing over I-5. Once the Portage Bay project is finished,
the SR 520 Trail will extend from Redmond to I-5 in Seattle.

Learn more!

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Full weekend closure of I-405 in downtown Bellevue coming up June 18-19

 By Victoria Miller

One of the largest construction projects in the Puget Sound region is having its first full weekend closure this June. The Main Street Bridge across Interstate 405 in downtown Bellevue will be closed for potentially up to five months starting as early as June 13 while our design-builder, the Flatiron-Lane Joint Venture, constructs a new Main Street Bridge over I-405. This work is part of the I-405, Renton to Bellevue Widening and Express Toll Lanes Project, and there will be two separate closures as part of this specific work.

The Main Street Bridge across I-405 in downtown Bellevue will be demolished and rebuilt as part of a major project to improve travel in the area.

Main Street Bridge closure and planned detour route

Work will begin with the closure of the Main Street Bridge as early as Monday, June 13. The Main Street Bridge across I-405 will be closed for potentially up to five months while crews construct a new bridge. Signs will direct drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists to nearby detours, but travelers should expect increased congestion in the area.

Northeast Fourth Street will operate as the planned detour route, with signs directing travelers around the closure. In addition, Southeast Eighth Street and Northeast Eighth Street will relieve some of the traffic load from Northeast Fourth Street.

Full weekend closure of I-405 and planned detour routes

Once the Main Street Bridge is closed, crews will close I-405 between Northeast Fourth Street and Southeast Eighth Street for a full weekend. This highway closure is necessary for crews to safely demolish the existing Main Street Bridge. The full highway closure is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. Friday, June 17, and end at 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, depending on the weather and other factors.

While I-405 is closed between Northeast Fourth Street and Southeast Eighth Street, southbound travelers can use the Northeast Fourth Street exit, travel south on 112th Avenue Northeast, and reenter the highway at Southeast Eighth Street.

Northbound travelers on I-405 can use the Southeast Eighth Street exit, travel north on 116th Avenue Northeast, and reenter the highway at Northeast Fourth Street.

A look at the detours for when I-405 is fully closed as part of the Main Street demolition work in downtown Bellevue.

What else do I need to know?

After the five-month-long bridge closure, the newly constructed bridge will partially open with one lane open to traffic in each direction for 60 days. Drivers will be able to use the bridge during these 60 days while crews finish construction of the bridge. Pedestrians and bicyclists will not be able to use the bridge during this time. After the 60-day partial closure, all lanes and sidewalks on the completed bridge will be open to all travelers.

We expect the entire closure, including the 60-day partial closure, to increase travel times and congestion in the area. Detour signs will be in place for the five-month closure of the Main Street Bridge, and for both southbound and northbound travelers during the full weekend closure of I-405.

Why are we replacing the Main Street Bridge?

As part of the Renton to Bellevue project, we must demolish and replace the bridge to make room for the additional lanes on I-405.

Once complete, the Renton to Bellevue project will add one new lane in each direction of I-405 between State Route 167 in Renton and Northeast Sixth Street in Bellevue.

We do not plan to close I-405 a second time in this area as part of the Main Street Bridge replacement work. However, in the coming years as this project continues, different areas of I-405 between Renton and Bellevue will be subject to full weekend closures in order for crews to complete other work. To learn more about the Renton to Bellevue project, visit our website.

How can I stay informed?

Make sure to stay up to date with the latest traffic and closure information by using our real-time travel map. If you would like to stay up to date on I-405 construction, please subscribe to the Eastside of Lake Washington Transportation News listserv.

If you have questions about this closure or the larger project in general, you can contact our project office at i405sr167program@wsdot.wa.gov or call the 24/7 construction hotline at 425-818-0161.

We recognize that big closures like this one can be inconvenient, so we encourage you to use other routes, postpone activities if possible, and/or travel at off-peak times. The Renton to Bellevue Project is not the only one in the area; construction projects, including the Revive I-5 Project, will be in full swing across the region. Make sure to “know before you go” and plan ahead for your travel. It’s going to be a busy summer!

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Art coming to life on Tacoma HOV project

By Cara Mitchell

Over the years as the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV program has progressed, we have shared a lot about closures, long bridge girders, and other significant updates. Writing about an art project hasn’t bubbled up to the top of the list, until now. The work we are getting ready to do on East 28th Street in Tacoma is exciting and meaningful to a lot of people, and to us. 

In the coming weeks, construction crews will begin to install hundreds of custom panels that will cover a wall that feature juvenile and adult salmon artwork. We worked closely with our tribal partners, the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, on this art display. The work is part of a Public Art Plan included in the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road Southbound HOV project. The design features four juvenile salmon and one adult salmon, swimming in water, framed by a random board pattern used elsewhere in the I-5 corridor in Tacoma.

These graphics are an example of how custom panels will be used to show juvenile and
adult salmon on a wall adjacent to East 28th Street in Tacoma.

The art is inspired by the Lushootseed traditional narrative, skʷikʷ(ə)xʷic – The Little Silver Salmon, and his journey through the river. The salmon artwork is provided by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. The entire display will be in one color, with a mixture of textures and different parts of the design raised to provide contrast. The wall is located directly across from Puyallup Tribal Trust lands where the Tribe’s Administration building, Elder’s Center, Justice Center and the Cushman Indian Cemetery are located.  

The concrete wall that the panels will be attached to is a large bridge abutment that was finished in 2012 for the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. Now that we are finishing the last project on I-5 in the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV program, crews are installing the finalized artwork. We are grateful to have the Puyallup Tribe of Indians with us on this journey of rebuilding the I-5 Puyallup River Bridges and finishing the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program.

The orange dot on the map shows the location of the concrete wall where crews will install hundreds of panels depicting juvenile and adult salmon. The concrete wall is shown in the photo above. The structure is
part of the northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

Shifted lane, work zone

Drivers will see temporary barrier and a shifted lane on East 28th Street as they approach East Bay Street and River Road. The barrier creates a work zone so crews can adjust drainage at the base of the wall, construct footings and install the concrete art panels. The existing shoulder barrier will need to be removed and replaced during this work.

The Puyallup Tribal Wall Public Art Plan installation is expected to finish later this summer. The entire I-5 Tacoma HOV program is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

When mariners should – and shouldn’t - request Hood Canal Bridge openings

By Doug Adamson

People who cross the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge know the feeling all too well. We’re talking delays associated with the bridge closed to vehicle traffic for boats.

It might happen once a day. Sometimes several times a day. That’s especially true in summer. And they can leave people stuck for up to an hour each time.

Why? We are required by federal law to close the bridge for marine traffic. Boats get the right of way.

While we’re required by federal law to open bridges to marine traffic, unnecessary SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge openings lead to delays for drivers including freight traffic as each one can take up to an hour.

But not all boats are the same and not all need the bridge to open. In those cases, the regulations require mariners to navigate under the truss spans of the bridge whenever possible. Mariners should not request draw span passage if their vertical clearance is enough to use elevated areas of the bridge.

But how do you know if you can fit? Great question. All vessel operators must know their mast height.

A look at the elevation portion of the Hood Canal Bridge on the Jefferson County side during high tide.

Truss heights (smallest vertical clearances at Mean High Water) clearances vary based on tides and wave activity.

  • Jefferson County (west) measures 31 feet 
  • Kitsap County (east) measures 50 feet

Requesting an unneeded draw span opening is a reportable offense to the United States Coast Guard and needlessly jams up traffic across the bridge.

Why don’t we police marine traffic?

Well we do. …kind of. While we are not a law enforcement agency, we can record vessel numbers and report violations to the United States Coast Guard. But we’d rather have mariners follow the regulations so we’re using a variety of resources to remind mariners of the federal requirements.

We have a new procedure when mariners call us for a draw span opening through the bridge. They will first hear a message citing the requirement for vessels to use the elevated portions of the bridge if possible.

The elevated portion of the Hood Canal Bridge on the Kitsap County side during high tide.

Why don’t you just build a suspension bridge over Hood Canal?

It would not be practical. The current bridge is about 7,000 feet long. A Hood Canal suspension bridge would be much larger than the 2007 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collects tolls. A new suspension bridge that wouldn’t require a draw span would likely be the longest in the world. The total cost? Think several billion dollars and years of construction.

Speaking of being practical, our crews are balancing lots of work to keep existing roads and bridges in good working order. Reducing unnecessary draw span openings also means less wear on the bridge’s moveable parts.

Both ends of the Hood Canal Bridge have elevated sections where boats can travel under.

Going forward

We’re dedicated to keeping people moving. Closures to traffic have a tremendous effect on people who are stuck waiting to get to medical appointments, work, making deliveries and any other reason they might be out and about.

While we’re encouraging boaters to not request openings when they aren’t necessary, the reality is some openings will always be needed. Use our app or HoodCanalBridge.com to check the bridge’s status and know before you go.