Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Once more, we plan lane reductions on southbound I-5 in Seattle

By Tom Pearce

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – we’re planning to reduce lanes on southbound I-5 from I-90 to Spokane Street this weekend to replace old expansion joints. Lane reductions will start at about 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20; all lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. Monday, May 23.

No, it’s not Groundhog Day. It’s just that we need dry weather to replace 45 expansion joints this year, so we need to work every weekend possible to complete the work. That means scheduling this weather-dependent work earlier in the year than we might in other circumstances, during a time when the weather is more iffy.

It takes about 55 hours to chip away old concrete, remove then replace the joint,
then pour new concrete and allow it to cure.

I know it can be frustrating when we announce lane reductions, then postpone them. Sometimes I feel like the boy who cried wolf. The difference is, we’re not just doing this to see if people are paying attention. We must share our plans ahead of time so people can prepare, even when we realize we may have to postpone due to weather.

Throughout the week we must go forward as though we are working, regardless of the forecast. Imagine the confusion and problems it would cause if we simply said, “Aw, It’s going to rain, we probably won’t work,” and did no preparation, only to have the weather clear up and the lane reductions start.

Why can’t we work in the rain? No, our contractors aren’t afraid of a little weather. The polyester concrete we’re using is more durable than typical concrete – important for our busiest highway in the state. But it’s also more susceptible to moisture and needs dry weather to set properly. So this long-lasting wet spring has been frustrating.

So, here we go again. We plan to close the left lanes of southbound I-5 south of I-90 to near Spokane Street starting at about 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20. We’ll reduce the freeway to one lane near Spokane Street, where we’re replacing the expansion joints. We’ll reopen all lanes by 5 a.m. Monday, May 23. We say it every week, so I’ll say it again – this work is weather dependent. Here’s hoping it’s good enough to work.

If weather allows, we’ll close the left lanes of southbound I-5 south of I-90.

One thing I can tell you for sure: We won’t work the weekend of May 28-29. That’s Memorial Day weekend and we don’t work holiday weekends when we know people will be traveling. We also will not work the weekend of June 11-12 due to the University of Washington’s graduation ceremonies or Juneteenth weekend, June 18-19.

We are planning to work just about every other weekend this summer – we’ll break for the Independence Day and Labor Day weekends, which always see lots of traffic. In the meantime, keep planning ahead for lane reductions – hopefully starting this weekend.