CHOKEPOINTS

Looking back at transportation around Western Washington in 2021

Dec 21, 2021, 7:35 AM | Updated: 10:32 am
transportation...
I-5 near downtown Seattle. (WSDOT file photo/Flickr)
(WSDOT file photo/Flickr)

Projects delivered. Projects delayed. It’s been another up and down year for transportation.

I wish I had better news for the people stuck in West Seattle, but the high bridge is going to be closed until the middle of 2022. That will make it more than two years since it was closed down for cracking concrete. Repairs are underway right now. The contract expires at the end of June. It will be into July before the bridge reopens.

Tacoma-area drivers were expecting to get their I-5 freeway back after more than 20 years of construction, but the promise to finish the HOV and widening project by the end of the year was not kept. Supply chain issues and those darn atmospheric rivers put those plans on hold.

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Cara Mitchell broke the news.

“The contractor had a very ambitious goal, but when they realized they wouldn’t be able to make it, we thought, ‘OK, we need to come clean and rip the Band-Aid off and tell folks we have a few more months of this,'” she said.

Summer of 2022 is all Mitchell will promise going forward.

Revive I-5 through Seattle

I-5 southbound drivers in Seattle are still asking me, “When will the horrible bumps on the freeway will be fixed?”

WSDOT crews did a lot of paving this year for the Revive I-5 project between the Convention Center and the West Seattle Bridge, but workers didn’t get to all the expansion joints. They only replaced six of 40. That leaves 34 jostling bumps as you head out of downtown.

WSDOT did try to grind the bumps down, but drivers still don’t like them.

WSDOT’s Tom Pearce explains why they paved before replacing the joints: “It’s a more efficient process to repave and then replace the expansion joints because it’s just easier to match the expansion joint height to the pavement, rather than match the pavement to the expansion joint height.”

Drivers will be bouncing until the dry weather returns next year.

It wasn’t all bad news in 2021.

Finished projects

Sound Transit opened its light rail station at Northgate, but less than two months later, after the Apple Cup, a train slammed to a stop in the University of Washington tunnel when the main power cable came apart. How that happened is still under investigation.

The Fairview Bridge just outside of South Lake Union reopened after two years of construction. The new bridge has plenty of room for cars and bikes, and it’s a great spot to take a picture of the lake.

Amtrak trains finally returned to the Point Defiance Bypass route, nearly four years after the deadly derailment that killed three.

The new I-5 HOV lanes, freeway off-ramps and construction through Joint Base Lewis-McChord opened up this year. It has made a big improvement through that area, though there is plenty of work left to do.

There’s a new Good to Go website. Users seem to like it.

There’s a new WSDOT website. Drivers’ initial reviews are not great, but change is difficult. The best place for traffic cams on a map is still MyNorthwest.

Peter Rogoff is heading out as the CEO of Sound Transit, and incoming Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell just fired transportation director Sam Zimbabwe.

What a year!

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Looking back at transportation around Western Washington in 2021