Effective Friday, July 18 at 8 p.m. through the following Friday, July 25 at 5 a.m., Interstate 90 Westbound will be reduced to one lane for construction in addition to various ramps closures. According to Mike Allende, Washington State Department of Transportation communications, “[in order] to keep delays from really getting horrible, we need at least 60 percent of drivers to adjust their plans.” Even if that level of traffic reduction is achieved, the WSDOT is anticipating 45 to 60 minute commutes in the morning with an increase in the afternoon.
The project ultimately aims to address three overarching things: safety, maintenance and preservation. The roadway will see improvements to its pavement and expansion joints with a reduction in traffic and emergency repairs, in all extending the roadway’s longevity. The interstate will undergo construction to “replace two worn out expansion joints and repair a damaged support beam on the westbound Interstate 90 East Channel Bridge over Lake Washington,” according to the WSDOT. “[Expansion joints] allow sections of bridge to expand and contract with temperature change and different traffic loads. Failing expansion joints are a safety hazard to drivers and can cause a bridge to bend, crack, or even collapse.”
Having been built approximately 23 years ago, the expansion joints “have reached the end of their useful life,” stated WSDOT. Various emergency structural repairs have been required to maintain the bridge thus far. Water leaks were found in 2001 ultimately leading to the “deterioration of the concrete and steel underneath the bridge,” continue the WSDOT. Beginning in July 2014, construction will be conducted by the Woodinville based Mowat Construction Company which was awarded the project in November 2013. While the lane reduction is only scheduled to last for a week, the project is not estimated to be fully completed until September.
Further adding to the traffic, there will Mariners games on July 18, 19 and 20, as well as a Sounders game on July 19. As a frame of reference, Allende cites the dual lane closure of I-90 West in July of 2009 in which “we saw up to 7-mile backups, but we had the express lanes to help. On this closure we do not. Congestion could be much worse this time around.”
For alternative commute options, BC recommends utilizing their BC RideMatch network as well as public transportation. The WSDOT confirmed that the toll on State Route 520 will remain unchanged throughout the construction period. Allende states that “the Transportation Commission sets toll rates and exemptions and there are none for this project or other construction closures.”
To see a full breakdown of the day to day construction and ramp closures, visit the WSDOT website, use traffic apps for mobile phones and wireless devices or call 511 for traffic alerts.