Rather than wait for summer, the state Department of Transportation will start closing and retrofitting highway lanes in the gloom of winter, starting the night of Jan. 4 with a weekend closure of the southbound Interstate 5 offramp to the West Seattle Bridge.
There will be about 20 weekend closures through April at the I-5/West Seattle Bridge/Columbian Way interchange through April, to replace a total of 31 expansion joints in the overpass ramps, for $4.5 million. These closures generally begin at 10 p.m. Fridays and end 5 a.m. Mondays.
Expansion joints are the gaps between elevated spans — think of I-5 as hundreds of viaducts rather than a continuous roadbed. The gaps allow concrete to expand and contract with the weather. In many spots, steel covers over the joints either “ka-thunk” with passing traffic, or the DOT has removed them altogether. These will be replaced with rubber coverings, so that road runoff doesn’t damage the road decks or trickle onto drivers below. In one sign of freeway decline, a driver was hit in the chest earlier this year when a loose chunk of concrete flew off the freeway near Northgate and hit his windshield.
Here is a color-coded map (click link to enlarge it) that shows which parts of the I-5/West Seattle Bridge/Columbian Way interchange will close on which weekends:
In other big projects, the DOT or contractors will:
* Grind and smooth three lanes of southbound I-5 between Northeast 50th Street and Roanoke Street, while re-striping the freeway in both directions from Northgate to Roanoke, for nine weekend nights in February and March, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m., for $6.4 million. Lane closures will cause traffic delays.
* Tear out and replace a 470-foot long, timber-supported section of Highway 99 just south of the West Seattle Bridge, between late January and April. One of the two southbound lanes will be closed around the clock, while two northbound lanes stay open, while workers build a new span using concrete and Geofoam supports.
* Repair expansion joints and pavement on northbound I-5 near Lakeview Boulevard, in June. The northbound shoulder will be rebuilt so it can serve as a detour lane — and in one DOT concept, as a future “hard running” lane for transit or general traffic to reach the Highway 520 exit.
This homepage from the state DOT discusses several 2013 projects and contains links to maps.