Starting as soon as this summer, drivers should expect major slowdowns during much-needed maintenance on I-5 through Everett.
Lanes will be reduced on the freeway during several weekends in the summer, fall and winter.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking bids to replace 108 worn concrete panels and eight expansion joints across four bridges, as well as pavement grinding. The project has a $7.9 million budget.
Work will take place between Lowell Road, which runs under I-5, and the Snohomish River Bridge, about 3½ miles of some of the most congested roadway in the state. An estimated 165,000 vehicles used that stretch every day in 2020, according to state data.
The travel experience could be similar to the “SnoCo Squeeze” on southbound I-5 through Marysville in 2016.
“This is an extremely long area, we recognize that,” said Adam Emerson, WSDOT’s project manager. “The purpose behind this project is so we maintain and preserve I-5. So we reduce the risk of having an unanticipated or catastrophic failures of the roadway if we had another heat dome or extreme freeze.”
Last summer’s heatwave that killed 157 people caused some concrete panels to pop up on I-5 and asphalt to melt in spots. Road repairs cost an estimated $2.6 million.
Everett’s stretch of the interstate didn’t suffer the same damage, and the planned work this year isn’t related to that.
“This is relatively routine maintenance,” Emerson said.
Travel could be filtered onto one or two lanes for up to nine weekends, according to a presentation Wednesday by the Washington State Department of Transportation to the Everett City Council. Lane closures would happen between 10 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, in hopes of avoiding major commuting times.
Replacing expansion joints causes the most significant travel disruption, Emerson said. Half of the roadway, including shoulders, gets closed for that work.
Ramps to 41st Street, Broadway and Marine View Drive also will close some weekends.
Drivers will have consistent access to eastbound U.S. 2.
“That is one of the major freight routes, one of the major recreational routes,” Emerson said. “We recognize its importance to the region and to the state.”
Lane, ramp and shoulder closures will happen on some weeknights, too. Those would be between 7 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
The bid calls for 216 working days, which won’t all require major closures. There won’t be any daytime closures.
Everett City Council members said they already see spillover onto city roads during normal peak commute times.
“If you’re out in the middle of Everett about 2:30 in the afternoon, you see a lot of people commuting through our city,” Councilmember Judy Tuohy said.
Everett’s traffic engineering staff expect added congestion on Broadway and other major routes. They plan to add time to light cycles along Broadway for northbound traffic on weekends when I-5 loses lanes. Everett Public Works spokesperson Kathleen Baxter said they hope it keeps drivers from using side streets.
The city also will use signs to restrict some streets to local use.
A traffic engineer and sign technician will be available on the weekend lane closures to make signs or adjust signal timing. The city has 35 traffic cameras to track congestion on Everett’s main roads.
WSDOT staff know from past projects and travel patterns that disruptions to highways can push travelers onto alternate routes. Map and traffic apps may lead drivers around congestion through residential areas.
“There are other roads and other paths that drivers may elect to take if drivers don’t want to sit in traffic,” Emerson said.
City and state staff are coordinating to adjust city signals and timing to mitigate overflow onto Everett’s streets.
The contract, once awarded, will preclude roadwork conflicting with city events or projects, Emerson said.
Bids for the project, which includes similar work on I-90 between Issaquah and North Bend, are due March 2. WSDOT hopes to have a contractor in place by April, with work starting soon afterward and lasting through early 2023.
The exact schedule will be up to the contractor.
Once that’s determined, WSDOT plans to launch a “very large” communication campaign so people know of any road closures. The state encourages drivers to delay or skip trips during closures, taking them at other times, or carpooling and taking transit.
The only other major north-south routes are Highway 99 west of I-5 and Highway 9 east of I-5.
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