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.