Thursday, February 9, 2023

Work on I-5 in Everett getting closer to complete

By Kurt Batdorf

We. Are. Getting. Close.

Starting Monday, Feb. 13, our contractor rolls out the diamond-tipped grinders to start smoothing over the two northbound right lanes of Interstate 5 in Everett during 11 nights of work over the next three weeks.

This means just one lane of northbound I-5 will be open between 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. from Feb. 13-16, Feb. 21-23 and Feb. 26-March 2. We hear the collective groan of drivers, and we get it.

But it also means we’re getting closer to a milestone on this rehabilitation project. By March 2, the two right northbound lanes will be nice and smooth between Lowell Road and the Snohomish River Bridge. If things go well, we have a plan to smooth over the left lanes, too. If we can’t get to the left lanes this time, we’ll need to schedule that work at a later date.

A contractor works on 10 concrete panels that were replaced in 2022 on I-5 in Everett. Crews will grind all the new panels in the right two lanes between Lowell Road and the Snohomish River Bridge starting Feb. 13.

The past few weeks have been disruptive, we know. We had to do an emergency weekday pavement repair that really messed up the day’s traffic.

And then, seeing that we might have more emergency repairs if we waited a couple of months to finish this phase of the project, we were able to finish replacing the last of 200 concrete panels over a weekend, though again, it meant multiple lane closures for a couple days in a row, and we know that can be frustrating.

Why is it still bumpy?

We heard from some drivers that the new concrete panels are rough. “Almost like hitting a speed bump,” someone said.

There’s good reason the new concrete felt like you hit a bump. It sits a little higher than the existing 1960s-era concrete so that when the contractor grinds the pavement smooth, all the panels end up even.

The new concrete panel (nearest to us) sits a little higher than the surrounding concrete that was poured in the 1960s. Our contractor will use diamond-tipped grinders to smooth out the two right lanes of I-5 in Everett to create a smoother surface.

Think of it this way. If you’re cutting a piece of lumber to a specific height, you often cut it a little long, because you can always trim it down. If you cut it too short, you just made a piece of scrap.

It’s the same principle with concrete pavement. We can’t make the new concrete panels higher (or deeper or thicker) after the wet cement sets, and we don’t want to grind off more of the existing concrete than necessary at the risk of turning those panels into scrap. That’s why you had to feel a bit of a bump. There wasn’t enough time during the weekend work to replace the panels and grind them down smooth before we had to reopen to traffic by Monday morning.

“Measure twice, cut once,” as carpenters say.

The 11 overnight lane closures won’t be a picnic, but we think you’ll appreciate the results. No more ruts in the old concrete. No more bumps in the new concrete.

The final milestone on this project is replacement of four I-5 bridge expansion joints north of 41st Street, at Pacific and Hewitt avenues, and at US 2. Our contractor will start on that phase in a few weeks. Yes, we’ll have more lane closures but we expect to have two lanes open so traffic will flow a little better. We’ll tell you about it with a blog post and other social media posts when we get closer to the start date.