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You don’t want to be driving north out of Olympia on these weekends

(AP)

The northbound I-5 drive out of Olympia on Sundays is one of the most congested spots in the region, and it’s about to get a little worse.

I drive this stretch of I-5 all the time, and that Sunday drive from Lacey through Nisqually and up into JBLM and some Sundays into Tacoma is just brutal. There are no real alternates to I-5. You can try the Nisqually Cut Off to Mounts Road, but that’s no gem either.

The state is about to make this drive even worse, with some necessary construction on the Nisqually River Bridge.

“For two consecutive weekends, northbound I-5 will have around-the-clock lane closures,” Doug Adamson with the Washington Department of Transportation said. Those closures will happen over the next two weekends.

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“There are normally three lanes on northbound I-5 there,” Adamson said. “We’ll reduce those lanes to two. We’ll have narrower lanes, and the speed limit will be reduced to 35 miles per hour.”

Those restrictions will be in effect from Friday night to Monday morning each of the next two weekends. It’s going to be bad enough on those Saturdays, but the Sundays have the potential to ruin your return home.

“We see regularly, because of the pinch-point through Nisqually, traffic backed-up without construction,” he said. “We’re anticipating much, much longer delays.”

The routine five mile Sunday afternoon backup that stretches from the Martin Road off ramp to the Nisqually Bridge could extend much further. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it reach Highway 101 in Olympia, if we have a heavy volume day.

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What is so important on the bridge that drivers need to endure two weekends of lane closures?

“I-5 is getting old,” Adamson said. “It’s beginning to show its age, and we have to get in there and replace what’s called a bridge approach slab in that area.”

Workers need dry and warmer weather for this project, so it is weather-dependent. The state will let us know closer to each weekend whether the forecast could be a problem.

The best advice for traveling through that area during construction is to leave early or leave late. You don’t want to be heading northbound out of Olympia in the middle of the afternoon on either one of those Fridays.

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