MARYSVILLE — It looks as if the “Snoco Squeeze” is coming this week.
Drivers can expect potentially nightmarish congestion on southbound I-5 through Marysville this weekend as the state gets started on replacing expansion joints on Steamboat Slough Bridge.
Anticipating a break in the rain, the state Department of Transportation on Thursday night plans to restripe the three southbound lanes so they are narrower and lower the speed limit to 45 mph in advance of contractors getting to work.
Come the weekend, one of the lanes will be closed.
“We are doing what every other Washingtonian is doing, taking advantage of dry weather when we can get it,” WSDOT spokeswoman Lisa Van Cise said.
The state is replacing aging expansion joints on Steamboat Slough, Ebey Slough and Union Slough bridges. Eight weekends of work — with lane closures in each of the weekends — are needed to finish the job.
Rainy weather forced postponements the past three weekends. With a forecast for a dry period this week, work is planned on Steamboat Slough Bridge.
All three narrower lanes will be open for the Friday morning commute but a lower speed limit of 45 mph will be enforced.
Only two lanes will be open from 9:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday night as contractor crews replace bridge expansion joints.
Only one lane will be open Sunday night through 4 a.m. Monday to remove a safety barrier. Drivers also may encounter rolling slowdowns during evening or early morning hours.
With one lane closed and slower speeds in the work zone, “it will be a slog” as drivers could encounter back-ups similar to a weekday morning commute, Van Cise said. She urged travelers to carpool, to travel early or late in the day, or to find an alternate route to bypass the construction zone.
Ideally, on Sunday night crews will restripe the lanes again to restore full use of the highway in time for the Monday morning commute. But it depends on the weather, she said.
Replacing the corroded joints that allow the bridges to expand and contract with changes in weather can be done in the rain. But lane restriping can only be done in dry conditions, she said.
Thus, if it rains, the restriping will not occur and drivers will have to travel in the three narrow lanes for the Monday morning commute — and additional days depending on the weather.
You can expect this rhythm of lane narrowing and closures for eight weekends. Construction will be halted for the weekend of April 9 and 10 which is the peak of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, when traffic is expected to be heaviest on the weekend.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.