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WSDOT to tackle I-5 where expansion joints failed Wednesday

Seattle I-5 expansion joint repair in 2014. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

Drivers on I-5 got a good look at the state of repairs on the freeway in downtown Seattle on Wednesday. Emergency expansion joint work shut down two southbound lanes of the freeway near the West Seattle Bridge for several hours.

That spot is right where the Washington State Department of Transportation plans to address the failing concrete and expansion joints over the next 18 months.

WSDOT finally widening northbound I-5 through downtown Seattle

“Revive I-5” is back.

Construction is set to begin in May on southbound I-5 from the I-90 interchange to Spokane Street. Five expansion joints will be replaced on I-5, and one expansion joint will be replaced on westbound I-90 over I-5. Additionally, more than a mile of concrete will be repaired.

“When we built this freeway back in the ’60s, they figured it would last about 25 years before it needed major work,” WSDOT’s Tom Pearce said.

The state got more than double that because of some good concrete installed originally. But the freeway needs a ton of work now.

“We’ve got about two dozen projects over the next 10 years — that’s going to be repaving, expansion joints, making sure that the freeway will be safe in an earthquake,” Pearce said. “We’ve got a lot of projects like that coming up.”

You might not realize it, but most of I-5 just outside of downtown Seattle is actually a bridge. You can certainly see that on a trip down Airport Way.

That complicates these repairs a bit and adds time to the project. The plan is to shave down the bad concrete on top and replace it will a polyester concrete, which should prevent deep grooves from forming.

Pearce said this work won’t be done until the fall of 2022.

“We need 16 weekends to do this work, which is why we need to spread it out over a couple of years,” he said. “We simply can’t cram 16 weekends into a single year. That would be just way too inconvenient for people.”

Pearce said southbound I-5 will be reduced to two lanes during those weekend closures. There also could be a full freeway closure mixed in.

We will be watching the schedule closely to warn you.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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