CHOKEPOINTS

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

Apr 21, 2022, 6:07 AM | Updated: 6:26 am

The “bump brigade” is on its way. Workers are about to return to southbound I-5 in Seattle to remove all those terrible, alignment-killing bumps left over from last year’s paving. But it’s going to come with a heavy price.

Why there are bumps along I-5 through downtown Seattle

Sixteen weekends of work: That’s what it’s going to take to replace the 35 expansion joints on that stretch of southbound I-5 between downtown and the West Seattle Bridge. That will mean 16 weekends of full I-5 closures or partial closures basically every weekend between May and September — weather dependent — said Amy Moreno with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“It’s going to be every weekend except for Memorial Day, University of Washington graduation, 4th of July and Labor Day,” she said.

This is going to leave a dent in your travel plans all summer, including going to games in the stadium district and attending Seafair.

“We usually try to work around big events, but there’s just no way around this,” she said. “It’s unfortunate because we don’t like to put people in these traffic jams, but to do this work and keep our contractor crews safe, this is the type of lane reductions we have to do.”

This all starts the weekend of May 6-8. The lanes will start being closed Friday night and won’t reopen until early Monday morning. Moreno said all southbound I-5 drivers will be forced into the collector-distributor lanes.

“It is going to be slow going,” she said. “People do need to prepare for that, and unfortunately, that’s Mother’s Day weekend, but that’s no excuse — get those gifts to your mom.”

This means only one lane will go all the way through the closure and pop back out on southbound I-5 after the construction zone. When WSDOT had similar closures last year, the backups extended from the University District. You are encouraged to delay your trip, use transit or choose an alternate route.

Why are portions of I-90 near Snoqualmie Pass so ‘groovy’?

It takes about 55 hours to chip out and replace one of these expansion joints, then wait for the concrete to cure around them.

WSDOT is replacing 35 of them, and it might be hard to believe, but most of them are original joints from when I-5 was first built.

“Thirty-two of the 35 are original,” Moreno. “They’ve been repaired many times by our maintenance crews, who have worked diligently over the years to keep these road-worthy.”

That means those joints have been there since the 1960s.

You might wonder why the state did the paving first, creating all those bumps in the process. WSDOT said it’s easier to pour the concrete first and match the joints to that height than it is to match the concrete to the new joints.

The state is starting this replacement work with the expansion joint that popped April 1, which caused a huge delay for drivers.

So, this is the end of the bumpy ride, but it’s going to take until September before those bumps are gone.

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