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New Chehalis I-5 overpass comes down to 60-hour closure

Damage to the Chamber Way overpass on southbound I-5, caused by a truck hauling a pair of excavators, just south of Olympia, WA. (WSDOT image)

It’s been more than two years since an over-sized load smacked the Chamber Way overpass on southbound I-5, ripping out concrete and damaging several girders.

Now it comes down to a 60-hour closure. That’s all Chehalis drivers have left to endure before getting their new overpass on I-5.

The southbound span had to come down to prevent a possible collapse, cutting off the primary route from east side of I-5 to the shopping district on the west. Like we saw with the expedited repairs on the Skagit River Bridge after its collapse, the legislature sped-up funding to get on Chamber Way quickly.

A temporary span was put-in, and work to replace the old overpass got started in about a year. That new overpass is finished, and all that’s left is to tie-in the roadway on either side.

Frank Green with the Washington Department of Transportation said the old overpass was only two lanes. The new one is double that.

“It will have four lanes across it as well as a bicycle and pedestrian sidewalk, and it’s also higher,” he said. “It will have more vertical clearance over the freeway to help avoid a future over-size load from hitting it.”

Starting Monday, Oct. 15, that tie-in work will begin as Chamber Way is closed for 60-hours. Green said the original plan was for a series of closures, but this seemed like a better idea for the community.

“They would have had to do that (tie in the lanes) over a series of closures that would have taken two or three weeks until they would have put all the traffic onto the new bridge,” Green said.

That would have pushed the opening of the new overpass into the beginning of the holiday season.

“It’s a schedule-driven closure that we’re looking to do to try and get all traffic moved onto the new bridge at once so you don’t have some traffic on the detour bridge and some traffic on the new bridge and have that condition changing over the next three or so weeks,” he said.

The only x-factor left is the weather.

“If we see a lot of rain in those closure periods, when they’re scheduled to do the paving work or the striping work, we might have to shift the closure or have the contractor rethink how they could achieve that work,” Green said.

The forecast looks good, for now. If the weather holds, the closure will begin at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15 and wrap-up at 7 a.m. Thursday.

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