Tuesday, April 19, 2022

It's been a bumpy ride on southbound I-5 in Seattle

UPDATE May 6, 2022: Work on the Revive I-5 project scheduled for the weekend of May 6-9 has been postponed due to wet weather. We will announce a new date when that is determined.

By Amy Moreno

There’s a rhythm to the drive on southbound Interstate 5 in Seattle. It comes from a series of unpleasant bumps on the section between I-90 and Spokane Street. The familiar cacophony reverberates as tires bump the original expansion joints along this stretch.

Last year we started with new concrete, grinding down the roadway and putting down fresh pavement. This spring and summer the crew is back for the joints.

This year we plan to break up the beat of the old joints and smooth your ride, starting the weekend of May 7-8. That’s when we’ll begin the first of many weekend-long lane reductions to replace 35 expansion joints on southbound I-5. Forget the summer of love, this will be the summer of lane closures.

It’s more than the noisy bumps

The expansion joints are road-worn and ready to retire. On April 1, one of the joints proved how deeply this work is needed by popping loose. It was just one day before our maintenance crews had planned to do some temporary repair work on that joint.

An expansion joint popped on southbound I-5 in Seattle just after 1 a.m. on April 1.

After that incident we met with contractors and decided to adjust our construction schedule and start with the joints in that area.

Lane reductions start Friday night, May 6

Our contractor, CA Carey, plans to start weekend-long lane reductions at 8 p.m. Friday, May 6, finishing by 5 a.m. Monday, May 9. All traffic will shift through the collector/distributor for the whole weekend. There are Mariners games that weekend, along with other events in downtown Seattle. And of course, it’s Mother’s Day weekend. Yes, this might affect some of your travel plans, but you can still get there if you allow extra time and use alternate transportation.

  • Take a Sound Transit bus or light rail
  • Ride Metro Transit
  • Carpool – it’s always more fun to go with others
  • If you can, travel early (before 8 a.m.) or late (after 8 p.m.)
  • If you can put off the trip, consider rescheduling it
  • If you’re feeling active, there are scooter and bike rentals in Seattle
To maintain a safe work zone for the people replacing the expansion joints, all traffic will go through the collector/distributor during the weekend-long lane reductions.

What’s next?

This is the first of about 16 weekends of lane reductions that will continue through the summer.  We will keep I-5 open for people and businesses, but we need to reduce the number of lanes to do this. We plan to work every weekend except:

  • Memorial Day, May 28-30
  • University of Washington commencement, June 11-12
  • Independence Day, July 2-4
  • Labor Day, Sept. 3-5
A worker welds anchor rods for expansion joints on I-5 in Seattle in 2021.

The work is weather dependent, so rain could mean delays or postponed weekends. Keep an eye on our social channels like Twitter and our travel information for the latest on closures.

Hopefully the work this summer will mean we roll to an easy rhythm by fall. Then we can enjoy the bumps from our car stereo instead of the roadway.


Unknown said...

How often are each expansion joint replaced? It seems like they are replaced every few years.

Unknown said...

Two seasons in Seattle; rainy season and road closure season (summer).

WSDOT said...

We have hundreds of expansion joints on I-5 in the Seattle area and have replaced many of them throughout the years. In the work area for this summer’s project, 32 of 35 joints on the mainline are original expansion joints from when I-5 was built.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the update, however the angled grinding that has been applied to the newly paved joints appears to make no appreciable difference in the severe feedback through a cars suspension. The joints are harsher now than before the work. Luxury cars might be able to tolerate but not ordinary people. I now take local roads to work instead.

wa mace said...

This seems like a very long work schedule. Why does it take so long? it's not like your replacing the freeway.

wa mace said...

This seems like a very long work schedule. Why does it take so long? it's not like your replacing the freeway.

WSDOT said...

It takes about 55 hours to replace an expansion joint because crews must chip out the concrete that holds the old one in place, then cut out the old steel, place and secure the new steel, then pour concrete at the joint and allow it to cure. We can work on several joints in a single weekend but because we are trying to minimize the traffic impacts and keep some lanes open we work on one side for one weekend and then come back the next week and do the other side.

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