After years of preparation, WSDOT widens northbound I-5 into downtown Seattle

Mar 24, 2022, 5:42 AM
I-5, Seattle...
A view of downtown Seattle. (Flickr Creative Commons)
(Flickr Creative Commons)

The Washington State Department of Transportation has been preparing us for this project for more than a few years: the widening northbound I-5 into downtown Seattle. And this is the year it’s finally happening.

There was a nighttime closure of northbound I-5 Wednesday, and there will be another one Thursday. These are the opening moves in the construction that will add another 1,500 feet of lane through downtown Seattle.

All traffic will be detoured into the downtown collector-distributor lanes from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday. WSDOT’s Tom Pearce said they need the room to begin moving barriers to squeeze out the space for the new lane between Seneca and University Street.

“Just for the safety of the construction workers, we need to close the mainline lanes sometimes because they’re out there removing barriers, building the new barriers, and re-striping so we need to have plenty of room for them to do it safely,” Pearce said.

The state is turning the Seneca Street off-ramp from an exit-only lane to an optional exit and through lane. That will give drivers three northbound lanes going under the Convention Center.

“Not having people merge at the last second, it’s really going to make a difference on the flow of traffic going northbound,” Pearce said. “Everybody bunches up there, especially when the express lanes are southbound.”

Two through lanes will become three through lanes. Added capacity — that’s a good thing for drivers.

The other part of this project might not be so welcome, especially for drivers using westbound I-90 to northbound I-5. The state is adding ramp meters to the collector-distributor lanes, which means drivers heading from I-90 to northbound I-5, and those heading north from the stadiums, will face managed queues.

“We’re going to have two lanes on the collector-distributor with ramp meters, and then they’ll alternate the traffic to keep the flow going well onto the mainline,” Pearce said. “That’s also going to provide us some more space to collect the vehicles when we do get some backups.”

There will also be a new ramp meter from Cherry Street.

Drivers need to be ready for more lane closures as this project progresses.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


Trash is strewn along an Interstate 5 freeway on-ramp as viewed in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by G...
Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: A glance at current Washington state laws to avoid littering on the road

Littering is still a huge problem on our roads, but are you still required to carry a trash bag in your car?
7 days ago
Expansion joints underneath I-5 (KIRO Newsradio)...
Chris Sullivan

I-5 expansion joint repair will hamper your summer driving

If the weather holds, southbound I-5 will be shut-down this weekend through Seattle for the first of a summer’s worth of weekend closures for expansion joint repairs.
12 days ago
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)...
Chris Sullivan

ORCA card gets a reboot with instant value transfer feature

The new site and app will allow more than five million users to add money to their accounts instantly alongside 6,000 new card readers and vending machines.
15 days ago
Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Sound Transit passes fare reform with diminished ridership accountability checks

Sound Transit no longer has mechanisms in place to check I-D's and track who isn't paying in the first place with their decision to remove law enforcement from the fare enforcement process.
18 days ago
Expansion joints I-5, bumps...
Chris Sullivan

Work to remove bumps along I-5 through downtown Seattle set to bring months of weekend closures

Workers are about kick off work to remove those bumps on I-5 through Seattle, but it's going to come with a heavy price for drivers.
26 days ago
WSDOT, HOV lanes...
Chris Sullivan

Northbound HOV optimism and aggressive litter cleanup in Puyallup

Nearly every morning on the KIRO Newsradio text line, I receive this question: When will the northbound HOV lane open?
28 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
After years of preparation, WSDOT widens northbound I-5 into downtown Seattle