Monday, September 12, 2022

Coordinating projects like Revive I-5, West Seattle Bridge reopening keeps people moving

By Tom Pearce

We are nearing the end of our expansion joint replacement project on southbound I-5 between I-90 and Spokane Street in Seattle, with only a few weekends of work remaining.

Our next weekend coincides with a major Seattle Department of Transportation event – the long-awaited reopening of the West Seattle Bridge on Sunday, Sept. 18. While we will work the weekend of Sept. 17-18 on the I-5 off-ramp to the West Seattle Bridge, we are requiring our contractor have all lanes of southbound I-5 reopened early Sunday, Sept. 18. When SDOT reopens the bridge that day, people will have an easier time getting to and from West Seattle.

Remaining work

Generally, we replace expansion joints one-half at a time – either on the left or right side of the roadway – allowing us to keep at least some lanes open. In some areas where the road is narrower, like on- or off-ramps, we have to do the entire joint at once, which means full closures.

By replacing either the left or right half of expansion joints during the weekend, we can keep lanes open.

So far, we have replaced 41 full expansion joints and still have 10 joints to complete. We also need to add sealant to a number of joints and repair ruts on the I-90 on-ramps to southbound I-5 as well as the Forest Street and West Seattle Bridge off-ramps, which have been worn by decades of vehicles using the ramps.

We expect to complete the last of these repairs and joint replacements by mid-October, depending on the weather. Our contractor can work with some rain, but if heavy rains or winds are in the forecast, we may have to postpone to another weekend.

Replacing several joints each weekend helps finish the work more quickly.

Coordinated efforts

It would be easier for us to simply close highways to do repairs, but with so many people relying on these roads, it's not a realistic way to do work. For example, earlier this year, I-405 had a weekend-long closure in downtown Bellevue. After considering the options and effects, we determined we would not work on I-5 that weekend.

That sounds like a simple decision, but sometimes it isn't. In the next several years we have major projects in the greater Seattle area on I-5, I-405, I-90 and SR 520, as well as other highways around the region. Beginning next year, we may have to allow closures on multiple highways at the same time in order to complete work in a timely manner. We understand this will be inconvenient for people, but the sooner we finish, the sooner everyone will have a better road network.

Besides planning among our own projects, we also will work with our other partners like SDOT to coordinate so people can get where they want to go.