CHOKEPOINTS

Failing expansion joint continues to plague I-90 on Mercer Island

Feb 20, 2024, 10:30 AM | Updated: 12:31 pm

It’s added 15-to-20 minutes to the drives of eastbound I-90 commuters. So why is it taking so long to fix the expansion joint on the freeway on Mercer Island?

Eastbound I-90 has been reduced to three lanes on the east end of Mercer Island for about a month now. There is a failing expansion joint on this section of road as I-90 crosses the East Channel Bridge.

The state decided to close the lane last month to keep vehicles off of it because engineers worried it could fail under loads.

The plan was to re-stripe a fourth lane back into the freeway sometime this month. All lanes would be reduced to 10-feet in width. And the expansion joint would be fixed and replaced next year.

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I get a lot of comments about this, considering drivers are seeing up to 20 minute delays during rush hour. John Donaldson reached out to me last week, asking what a lot of people are: “Why is this taking so long, and why will it take until next year to fix it?”

He wrote this “hiccup” is costing him “15-to-20 minutes a day.”

I went a little deeper with the Washington Department of Transportation on this, and here is its response.

WSDOT is having trouble finding a contractor that can do the re-striping. There are not many that do this particular type of work. Once a contract is signed, the re-striping will be done as fast as possible.

As for why it will take another year to replace the failing joint, WSDOT said the project is still in the design phase. It has been declared an emergency, and the project has been moved up on the schedule as far as it can be.

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The joint was originally scheduled to be replaced in 2027. It is now on the fast track to be done in 2025.

The new joints need to be custom-made and they will take four to six months to build.  2025 is the earliest WSDOT can pull this off.

I’m working with WSDOT closely, and I’ll let you know when that re-striping will be done.

Chris Sullivan is KIRO Newsradio’s Senior Transportation Reporter. Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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