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October 27, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Three lanes of southbound I-5 to close around 7 p.m., for joint repairs

UPDATE 5:40 P.M.:

Any minute now, a state maintenance truck will be parked on the center lane of I-5 in Sodo — to hold down a floppy expansion joint until the evening commute abates, and workers can close two more lanes for urgent repairs.

So then at 7 p.m., the center lane, the general lane to the left, and the high-occupancy lane will close. That leaves one general lane, and the West Seattle Bridge/Columbian Way exit-only lane still open.  Repairs will take about two hours, so that lanes might begin to reopen at 9 p.m.

The state initially announced it would close all but one lane at 5:30, a recipe for a disastrous commute. But then in an engineering meeting, somebody thought about temporarily parking a truck mid-deck, to steady the loose steel joint. “Hopefully, that can hold things for a few hours, to get the evening commute…” said WSDOT spokeswoman Harmony Haveman Weinberg.

Sound Transit express buses to south King County and to Pierce County use the Sodo Busway to reach I-5 anyway, so they should be able to avoid the mess, transit communication manager Geoff Patrick said.  But he said many  buses could be delayed anyhow by spillover congestion on the surface downtown. There’s not enough notice to add Sounder commuter trains, but an extra light-rail train could be added to the network if needed, he said.

Travelers can report roadway problems, such as a broken expansion joint, at 206-440-4490, the agency says.


The center lane will close at 5:30 pm., with three lanes to close by 7 p.m., the Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted.

“It pops up a little,” said spokeswoman Harmony Haveman Weinberg. She said the DOT received a citizen’s phone call about the joint this afternoon, and decided around 4 p.m. that immediate repairs are needed, but it’s taking just over an hour to mobilize the work crew and prepare for the fix.

Commuters might avoid the mess by riding a Sounder commuter train, or Sound Transit light rail, or by hanging around the central city until late evening.  Freeway buses are likely to get caught alongside motorists, while alternatives such as Sodo arterials and the Alaskan Way Viaduct will probably thicken soon.

This afternoon’s fiasco comes just five months after a nearby joint popped up and damaged a car May 29, causing 10-mile backups and an emergency closure through the morning commute. The state has spent millions to build new, tougher expansion joints in the northbound direction, but didn’t have money or plans to replace joints on the southbound side in 2014. Regional administrator Lorena Eng said this spring the joints are wearing out but historically weren’t a huge problem.  The southbound roadbed carries about 115,000 vehicles per weekday

Motorists who notice a damaged expansion joint are advised to call 9-1-1 and report it as a non-emergency incident, Weinberg said.  For many years, the state has been monitoring and sometimes re-fastening steel plates that cover gaps between the many small bridges that make up Interstate 5 through Seattle.

These repairs usually consume three lanes of the five-lane highway. because it takes one joint on the right side and one on the left, to cross the whole deck.



Comments | More in Traffic & Transit | Topics: expansion joint repair, i-5, lane closures


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