By Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer
MONROE — It’s the start of blasting season.
Crews for the Washington State Department of Transportation are planning to set off explosives on a rocky hillside near the Snohomish River to make way for two additional lanes on Highway 522.
They plan to close all lanes of Highway 522 for an hour starting at 10:15 a.m. Monday between Fales/Echo Lake road and 164th St. SE.
Drivers should add at least 20 minutes to their commute while using U.S. 2 and Highway 9 as detours.
Monday is intended to serve as a test run for future blasts.
More rock blasting is planned for the week after that, and can continue from three to five days a week until summer 2013.
The plan is to remove 300,000 cubic yards of rock — which would fill 25,000 dump trucks — to make space for the new lanes. These additional lanes will make the highway safer and ease congestion, project engineer Janice Fahning said.
The DOT plans a maximum of 150 closures. In the past, the rock blastings have been delayed because of weather, and work was rescheduled for mid-August. Contractor Scarsella Brothers, however, decided to go ahead on Monday because it fit their schedule, DOT spokeswoman Bronlea Mishler said.
It is unclear if they will schedule any explosions or closures during the Evergreen State Fair at the end of August.
During the work, there will be whistles and horns informing people when the blasts are about to begin and when they end. People in Monroe shouldn’t hear the explosions, Fahning said.
“There is going to be more noise from the dump trucks than from the blasts,” she said.
The department chose late-morning closures to avoid peak traffic times and avoid disrupting students’ commute when schools are back in session.
The work is part of a $128.8 million project to widen Highway 522 to four lanes over a four-mile stretch from 179th Avenue SE to the Snohomish River bridge. A concrete-barrier median will be installed to prevent head-on collisions. Four new bridges, which are in different stages of construction, are part of the project.
Scarsella Brothers has been contracted to remove rock from two locations. Seventy-three holes between 10 and 30 feet deep have been drilled for the explosives.
On Monday, crews will monitor the ground vibrations with seismography equipment to see if adjustments are necessary, said blasting superintendent Kelly Drake, who works for Scarsella Brothers.
The explosions are intended to go off in a domino effect and the rock is intended to slide away from the highway, he said.
Drake plans to use ammonia nitrate if the ground is dry. If not, he plans to use a chemical mixture similar to dynamite, he said.
The rock will become property of the contractor, which can use it to build the roadway and the sound walls, Fahning said.
Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state Department of Transportation plans to close Highway 522 from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. Monday from Fales/Echo Lake road to 164th St. SE. Drivers must use U.S. 2 and Highway 9 as detours. They should expect a 20-minute delay on their commute.
People can learn more about the project and see pictures and video of the blastings at the WSDOT website: http://tinyurl.com/522blasting.
People can call for the current rock blasting schedule at 877-832-0303