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What to know about Aurora Bridge work and weekend traffic

Crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation lay down waterproofing material to cover corroding rebar along the concrete deck of the Aurora Bridge in Seattle. (WSDOT)

If you thought last weekend’s traffic was bad in Seattle, well, this weekend will actually be bad. And the next. That’s because paving crews were forced to postpone needed work on the Aurora Bridge and have moved this traffic-snarling work to August 17-19 and August 24-25.

The Aurora Bridge is already a chokepoint connecting north and south Seattle over the canal (via the Queen Anne and Fremont neighborhoods). More than 40,000 vehicles use this route each day. All that wear and tear has prompted some paving work.

But to do that, dry weather is required. And so far, Seattle’s summer weather has teased work crews with sunny skies one day, and rain the other. Crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation were supposed to begin work on the bridge last weekend, but rain put a stop to that.

When will weather cooperate for Highway 2?

When work does begin on the Aurora Bridge, here is what Seattle drivers need to know:

  • Traffic will be reduced to one lane on the bridge while paving work is completed on both weekends.
  • Paving work will begin at 7 p.m. Fridays, and end at 5 a.m. Mondays.

Tom Pearce with WSDOT recently wrote on the department’s blog about how surprised he has been with the summer weather disruptions for road work.

Thinking about this rain delay, I was struck by the irony. When we announced this project schedule, I thought dry weather for two whole weekends in June was pretty optimistic and July and August weekends were more realistic. Two months later, here we are – the June weekends came off fine, and we’ve postponed weekends in July and August due to rainy forecasts…

To install waterproofing between the concrete deck and asphalt pavement used by more than 40,000 vehicles a day, the deck needs to be completely dry. If there’s even a little moisture, the waterproofing could fail. That can lead to water getting into the concrete deck, which can corrode the rebar inside and weaken the deck structure. So even a little rain can be a big problem.

More work on the Aurora Bridge?

Once crews are able to grind into the bridge and see what’s underneath the current pavement, they will be able to determine if there is more work needed. The deck on the Aurora Bridge was built more than 88 years ago. It’s not exactly known what’s been going on under there.

Seattle’s gloomy weather is actually normal for early summer

Basic patching is simple and can be done relatively quickly (despite what it feels like when you’re waiting in traffic). But as Pearce puts it, “If we find the deck needs larger repairs, it will require more time and more weekends.”

This is not the only project that has been foiled by weather this season. Work on Highway 2 between Snohomish and Everett has proven to be a challenge for crews that pushed back work repeatedly since 2018. In fact, work on the Highway 2 trestle required the same conditions as the Aurora Bridge, and was postponed for the exact same reasons.

In another bit of irony, all these weather disruptions are likely “normal.” As weather experts have noted this summer, the Northwest region has been spoiled in recent years with sunnier, warmer weather. People have forgotten that rain is common and summer weather typically begins in mid- to late-July.

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