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Construction will make return from Washington coast dicey

Driving home from the coast or southwest Washington is going to be rough again this weekend. The huge delays we saw last weekend through the Nisqually construction zone north of Lacey are returning for an encore performance.

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We warned you about this last week, and the delays happened just like we expected. Northbound I-5 was reduced to two narrower lanes through the Nisqually River Bridge, and the speed limit was reduced to 35 miles an hour through the construction zone. Drivers experienced bumper to bumper traffic, especially on Sunday afternoon, that extended more than six miles, back into Lacey.

“People were backed up for quite the distance,” WSDOT’s Doug Adamson said.

Drivers should expect more of the same this weekend, as the same restrictions will be in place from Friday night until early Monday morning. Contractors are repairing the pavement approaching the bridge. Last weekend, they did the right shoulder and right lane. This weekend they will be fixing the left side of the freeway.

“This is something that takes time to do it right,” said Adamson. “Heavy equipment had to go out there and cut through the existing concrete, [we] had to use heavy equipment to remove it and then go back in and pour the concrete.”

As we’ve discussed before, there is no real good way around this. You have Puget Sound on the left and no legitimate alternates on the right.

“There’s not a whole lot you can do through that area,” Adamson said. He suggested using State Route 3 to State Route 16, if you are coming back from the coast, thought that will include a toll on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The best plan, if you’re staying on I-5, is to leave really early or leave really late. Avoid the middle part of the day between Olympia and Tacoma, especially on Sunday.

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Adamson said this is going to be a giant pain for drivers, but this work needs to get done.

“We have to take care of I-5,” Adamson said. “We have a short window of the year that we can do this. If we could do this work in the middle of February, we would. If we could do this in one night, we would.”

The lane closure will begin about 10 p.m. Friday. All lanes should be re-opened by 4 a.m. Monday.

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