Orange cones multiplying in May; warm weather means construction season

May 2, 2023, 5:01 AM | Updated: 6:59 am


Signs and orange traffice cones indicate construction ahead (Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

New work zones, more orange cones. Warmer and somewhat drier weather means a return to the heaviest construction time of the year.

Interstate 5 drivers likely noticed a change in their commute through the massive construction zone near the Kent-Des Moines Road yesterday. The new work zone in the middle of the freeway debuted Monday. It also comes with a reduced speed limit in the southbound direction of the freeway.

More Chokepoints: Construction projects near Marysville to mess with traffic until 2025

“We’re doing this so that we can create a larger work zone in the median that will help keep our workers safe and drivers safe,” the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT)’s Kris Olsen said.

This work is part of the State Route 509 completion project that will create a new toll road between I-5 and the south end of the airport. It is also building a tunnel under the freeway to connect Veteran’s Drive to the west side of the I-5.

The speed reduction is only temporary, but it is essential for safety.

“It makes it harder to stay in your lane if you’re doing 60 mph or above, so dropping to 50 mph means it’s easier to stay in your lane,” Olsen said. “You’re paying attention to the work zone, and there’s less likelihood that you’ll sideswipe another car or rear-end another car, lose control, and slam into a barrier.”

Interstate 90 drivers are back into lane closure mode for the next two weeks. Eastbound I-90 is down to a single lane through Wednesday morning, about a mile east of Preston. Workers are repaving the Raging River Bridge.

WSDOT’s Tom Pearce said the contractor is getting two closures worth of work done in just one closure.

“Contractors found that the amount of work that needs to be done can be accomplished in about 30 hours on each side, so when we’re working on the right side, we need about 30 hours. When we’re working on the left side, we need about 30 hours,” Pearce said.

Early this morning, the contractor switched sides of the bridge, so drivers will likely notice a slight difference through the work zone.

“What most people are going to notice is that I-90 is just down to a single lane through there, and if you go through there every day, you might go, ‘Hey, well, I was over on the right side last time, and now I’m on the left side,'” Pearce said.  “Most people aren’t really going to notice a difference.”

Westlake Station closed this week as disruptions continue

This work should wrap up tomorrow morning, but that’s not it for I-90.

Westbound I-90 will be down to just one lane all weekend near Highlands Drive, just east of Issaquah.  The lane closures begin at 10 p.m. Friday night and last through early Monday morning.

There’s also a big closure of northbound I-5 in downtown Seattle coming up in the middle of the month. I will highlight that in an upcoming chokepoint.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Orange cones multiplying in May; warm weather means construction season