I-5 work makes it a grind in Everett

EVERETT — Drivers faced a backup stretching miles heading through Everett on Thursday night as state crews got ready to open a new lane on southbound I-5.

Crews started grinding away asphalt on the freeway from Broadway to the Lowell bridge and started painting stripes from U.S. 2 to the bridge. The work is expected to continue tonight and Saturday and Sunday evenings and wrap up by Monday morning if the weather permits.

The work began after 7 p.m. when the heaviest of the traffic was already over. However, narrowing the busy highway still slowed traffic as thousands of cars were funneled through the construction zone.

About 170,000 vehicles on average use the freeway through Everett every day, according to state officials.

“The good thing is that it does increase capacity in this congested section,” said Mike Cotten, the I-5 widening project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

The roadwork is part of the I-5 widening project that began in 2005. The work this weekend will add a southbound carpool lane from U.S. 2 to the Lowell bridge, about 2 1/2 miles.

The transportation department already widened the freeway, but immediately had to close one lane to replace a girder that was damaged when an excavator struck the underside of I-5 over Pacific Avenue. The state created a construction zone in the middle of the freeway in March. Drivers have been maneuvering around the work zone; traffic has been running smoothly.

Some drivers wanted the traffic split to stay in place, but the work zone is ready to be removed this weekend, Cotten said.

Once that happens, speed limits in the area will go up to 60 mph from 50 mph, said Patty Michaud, a spokeswoman for the transportation department.

Down the road, drivers may need to slow down, Michaud said. As crews remove old asphalt, the surface will become bumpy during the next two weeks until a new layer gets poured. Crews plan to put down the final striping over the asphalt later.

“If they don’t feel comfortable driving at 60, they need to slow down,” Michaud said.

The I-5 widening project is in its homestretch. Earlier this year, the state opened a new southbound carpool lane between the Lowell bridge and Highway 526, which is known as the Boeing Freeway. The state is expected to open the last segment of the new southbound carpool lane between Marine View Drive and U.S. 2. A new northbound carpool lane is set to open by the end of this month between Highway 526 and U.S. 2.

In addition, a new southbound lane that carries traffic from U.S. 2 to the 41st Street interchange is set to be extended to Broadway soon, state officials said.

The entire widening project is set to wrap up this summer. The $263 million project, funded by a 2003 nickel-per-gallon gas-tax hike, is the third most expensive highway project in the state’s history, according to state officials.

The unpredictable weather has prevented crews from tackling some projects. They have waited for dry weather to grind out new asphalt on I-5 ramps. Michaud said that if the weather permits, the state plans to pave some ramps over the weekend.

Reporter Jeff Switzer contributed to this story.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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