Orange traffic barrels Tuesday direct drivers away from a section of Interstate 5 that lifted last week causing major traffic backups along the highway in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Orange traffic barrels Tuesday direct drivers away from a section of Interstate 5 that lifted last week causing major traffic backups along the highway in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

After I-5 backups last week, WSDOT plans weekend work in Everett

Concrete panel replacement is scheduled to resume this weekend, which means lane reductions and closures.

EVERETT — With hourslong delays fresh in commuters’ minds from last week’s emergency road work on I-5 in Everett, more holdups are ahead this weekend.

Crews contracted by the Washington State Department of Transportation are scheduled this weekend to resume concrete panel replacement that started last fall. Only one lane of northbound I-5 will be open between 10 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday.

Work to stabilize some of the panels between Pacific Avenue and Marine View Drive, with two right lanes closing, is scheduled between 10 p.m. Tuesday and 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.

After noon last week Thursday, a panel in the center lane of northbound I-5 lifted almost 3 inches near the Marine View Drive exit. Maintenance crews closed two of the three lanes, removed the panel and replaced it with asphalt, which needed hours to cure before all lanes reopened just after 7 p.m.

Crews had cut that pavement panel ahead of replacing it late last year, but winter weather kept them from that last step, WSDOT spokesperson Kurt Batdorf said. Without the structural integrity, it came up, he said.

“It was kind of an oversight on our part for not catching that,” Batdorf said. ”There wasn’t anything holding the panel in anymore.”

The squeeze pushed back traffic and extended northbound commutes through the afternoon and evening. About 173,000 vehicles use I-5 through Everett, according to state data.

As northbound I-5 backed up, drivers bolted east and west to find other northbound routes such as Broadway and Highway 529, inundating Everett’s streets. Corey Hert, Everett’s traffic engineer, called it “unrecoverable congestion.”

“There was no magic button you could push to get that much traffic on alternate routes,” he said. “No amount of signal timing is going to overcome saturation like that.”

Broadway and Evergreen Way, Everett’s primary north-south routes, already were set to their maximum coordinated timing, he said. Hert had not reviewed data collected at some traffic signals and did not have traffic counts for that day yet.

“I just know they had two lanes of I-5 closed that are very busy in the evening peak, and a good percentage of that traffic came onto Broadway into Everett,” Hert said.

A fellow city employee noticed traffic backing up around noon and called him. Hert went to the city’s traffic management center to monitor video and real-time incident data, and called WSDOT staff, he said.

Hert didn’t recommend the city publish an official detour after watching backups grow on Colby Avenue, East Marine View Drive, Evergreen Way and more city streets.

The city’s traffic engineer 5:30 p.m. bus ride home, normally an hour, took 2 hours and 10 minutes.

“There are few routes that go unexplored by traffic,” Hert said.

Last fall, crews replaced 120 damaged panels between Highway 526 and Everett Avenue. Another 40 are set to be replaced or repaired this weekend, WSDOT staff said in a news release Tuesday.

That work was put on hiatus for winter until the panel problem last week pushed them to seek its completion sooner.

“If you can avoid going through I-5 (in Everett) this weekend, we encourage that,” Batdorf said.

More overnight and weekend lane closures are ahead this spring for crews to replace bridge expansion joints over Hewitt Avenue, Smith Avenue, Pacific Avenue and U.S. 2.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037;; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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