MARYSVILLE — A weekend drive could soon feel like a weekday commute if you’re traveling I-5 between Everett and Marysville.
Freeway drivers should brace for eight weekends of major lane closures starting Feb. 26 as state contractors replace expansion joints in northbound and southbound lanes.
The work will involve sections of I-5 over Ebey and Steamboat sloughs — the two bridges immediately south of Marysville. Crews are scheduled to work most weekends from late February through late April.
Expansion joints are essential components — steel bars and rubber seals that allow bridges to flex with changing traffic volumes and weather. The ones on the Ebey and Steamboat slough bridges are up to 30 years old.
Problems include protruding or missing bolts, torn seals that allow water to seep in and missing concrete around the joints.
“The reason we’re replacing them now is because we consider them the worst of the worst,” said Kris Olsen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
More than 130,000 vehicles travel that stretch of I-5 each day. Traffic engineers hope that 30 percent of the drivers can find other ways to travel through the area to avoid major delays during those weekends.
That includes carpooling, using public transportation or adjusting travel times.
Alternate routes include Highway 529 between Marysville and Everett as well as Highway 9 and U.S. 2.
“Unless drivers do something different, it’s likely we’ll see weekend commutes that are very similar to a morning or evening commute during the week,” WSDOT traffic engineer Mike Swires said in a press release.
Swires said it’s been years since I-5 in Snohomish County had a comparable closure.
Keeping up with aging expansion joints is an ongoing chore. There are 188 state bridges to maintain in Snohomish and King counties alone.
Between work completed in late 2015 and what’s expected later this year, WSDOT plans to replace 41 expansion joints.
The upcoming weekend work will replace 10 joints on the northbound Ebey Slough bridge. It will also entail swapping out four more joints on the northbound and southbound Steamboat Slough bridge.
Expansion joints on those bridges are long, ranging between 48 and 71 feet. Because of their size, they can only be replaced during weekends, when there’s more time available, Olsen said. Workers have to chip about a foot back from the joint and about six inches down.
“The concrete alone takes 12 hours to cure, so there’s not enough time during an overnight closure for these expansion joints,” she said.
At least two lanes are to remain open during the day on Saturdays and Sundays. Only one lane will likely be open overnight, generally between 11:30 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Narrower-than-usual lanes will result in a reduced speed limit of 40 mph.
Weather could affect the schedule.
Another 17 expansion joints on southbound Ebey Slough require less time. Crews expect to replace them Monday through Thursday nights, between the weekend closures, Olsen said.
During an earlier phase of work between September and the end of 2015, crews replaced 10 expansion joints on both directions of the I-5 Union Slough bridge.
The upcoming work is projected to cost $5.3 million in state transportation dollars. PCL Civil Constructors of Bellevue was awarded the contract.
I-5 closure schedule
Weekend lane closures are scheduled between 9:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday for these dates and lanes. The work is weather-dependent and could be rescheduled due to extreme cold or heavy rain.
Feb. 26-29 – southbound lanes.
March 4-7 – southbound lanes.
March 11-14 – northbound lanes.
March 18-21 – northbound lanes.
March 25-28 – northbound lanes.
April 1-4 – northbound lanes.
April 15-18 – northbound lanes.
April 22-25 – northbound lanes.
Resources for drivers
WSDOT mobile app: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Inform/mobile.htm.
WSDOT on Twitter: @wsdot_traffic will provide updates about the project using the hashtag #snocosqueeze.
The What’s Happening Now page chronicles closures and issues affecting travelers: www.wsdot.wa.gov/Construction/PugetSound.
Commute and travel choices: www.wsdot.wa.gov/choices.