MONROE — Two years from now, when work to improve the dangerous Highway 522 near Monroe is done, drivers should be heaving sighs of relief for more reasons than one.
Not only will the highway be a safer, four-lane divided road, but all the roadwork will be finished, as well.
That work is entering its busiest, most visible phase, with the most potential for causing traffic problems.
This week, part of the highway will be closed at night for the installation of girders for a new overpass over 164th Street SE. In mid-June, a full year of rock blasting begins on the highway between the Snohomish River and the city of Monroe.
This will require 150 one-hour, mid-morning closures until the middle of 2013. The planned detour will take drivers about 10 miles, and up to 20 minutes, out of their way, said Meghan Pembroke, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
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 also are planned.
From 2005 to 2009, there were 92 accidents on that stretch, three of them fatal, according to the state.
During the same period, another 59 collisions took place at the interchange of Highway 522 and 164th Street SE.
This week, crews plan to set 15 girders for the bridge over 164th Street SE. The street will be closed from 10 p.m. tonight to 5 a.m. Thursday and the same time from Thursday night to Friday morning. The highway itself and on- and offramps will stay open.
Drivers will follow a signed detour using Main Street, Highway 522, U.S. 2 and Fryelands Blvd.
The girders are 75 to 116 feet long and weigh 39 to 60 tons each. Crews need to close 164th Street SE to keep drivers safe while they place the girders over the roadway, Pembroke said.
“Once we get the girders in place, we’ll start building the deck for the new bridge,” said Janice Fahning, project engineer for the transportation department.
Other bridges planned as part of the project are over the Snohomish River, southwest of Monroe; over Elliott Road, near the river; and at 179th Street SE. Each of the new spans will carry westbound traffic while the current roadway will carry drivers headed east.
The closures for rock blasting are scheduled to begin June 18 and continue throughout the coming year. The work has to be done during the day but does not depend on good weather, Pembroke said. The closures will be timed for 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. to coincide with a mid- morning lull in traffic and to work around students traveling to and from nearby Monroe High School.
Altogether, the project will have taken three years. Work began last year, with crews building embankments for the new road, and is scheduled to conclude in 2014.
In a related project, the state recently finished building a new $22.8 million flyover ramp to connect Highway 522 with U.S. 2 in Monroe.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Highway 522 project, go to http://tinyurl.com/Hwy522.