The Washington State Department of Transportation expects to repave some 50 lane-miles this year, covering only half its backlog of 115 worn-out lane miles from Federal Way to Blaine.
Orange is all the rage for summer traveling in South King County, where 11 construction projects will hinder drivers for the sake of happy motoring later.
Among the projects: Broken concrete panels at Highway 900 in Skyway will be replaced, freeway columns in SeaTac will be wrapped in steel to better stand up to earthquakes, and a busy Green River bridge on Highway 18 will be painted, according to the state’s annual roadwork preview, released Monday.
To the north, three I-5 bridges between Everett and Marysville are due to have a total of 41 broken expansion joints replaced. However, just the 27 small joints are to be replaced this year, requiring only some overnight lane shutdowns. The other 14 thicker joints, which require at least two lanes to be closed for a weekend, won’t be replaced until January. In all, eight such weekend closures are planned, during the first half of 2016.
Replacement of these bigger joints is being deferred until winter, in part, to avoid clogging of heavy summer traffic north of Everett and to maintain access to summer Tulalip Casino concerts and sales nearby, said Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spokesman Travis Phelps.
The intensity and length of delays should be similar to what drivers have experienced during other recent summers, state officials say.
WSDOT expects to repave some 50 lane-miles this year, covering only half its backlog of 115 worn-out lane miles from Federal Way to Blaine.
In addition to the maintenance jobs, construction will continue on the new six-lane Highway 520 bridge and on the new carpool lanes on the I-90 bridge. The I-90 job requires two weekends of detours in May, which will divert cars into the express lanes while new signals, lights and fire detectors are installed. During the summer, all lanes will stay open. New express toll lanes are being completed on I-405 from Bellevue to Lynnwood and should be open by fall.
The beams of the Aurora Bridge will be repainted light gray, same as the existing color. The steel arch-truss bridge was built in 1931 and was last painted in 1984.
In the north suburbs, crews will continue replacing worn concrete road panels from Northgate through Shoreline and up to the Snohomish County line.
Farther north, the major projects include replacement of the Highway 532 Davis Slough Bridge from Stanwood to Camano Island, and repaving Highway 20 from Anacortes through Deception Pass to Whidbey Island.
Some parts of South King County are getting their first repaving, some 40 to 50 years after I-5 and parallel highways opened.
“Drivers can see and feel the deterioration,” said Lorena Eng, regional administrator. “Our projects are aimed at improving these highways, extending their life spans and increasing safety for drivers.”
In the South End:
- The Highway 18 Green River bridge repainting requires 20 full overnight closures and many single-lane closures between spring and fall, blocking the main route from Auburn to I-90 and Eastern Washington.
- Columns under eight I-5 viaducts, from South Beacon Hill to South 272nd Street, will be clad in steel to contain any broken concrete, in the same way WSDOT previously strengthened I-5 along north Beacon Hill.
- Highway 900, the Skyway portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, will require a full weekend closure in June, to replace 50 concrete panels with asphalt, on the west-section hill overlooking I-5. Then the repaving on the east section near Renton will require partial closures, probably overnight.
- Highway 167 will be repaved between Kent and Auburn, and a southbound high-occupancy or toll (HOT) lane will be added from Auburn to the Pierce County line, requiring one weekend closure of a bridge over Highway 18.
- In Tukwila, Highway 181 will be repaved from Southcenter Boulevard to South 180th Street, causing 1.5 miles of overnight lane closures.
- Highway 518, already treacherous going downhill from the airport, will be repaved from SeaTac to I-5, causing overnight lane and ramp closures.
- A 5.5-mile stretch of Highway 164, through the Muckleshoot Reservation, will be repaved this summer and fall, causing overnight lane closures.
- Highway 509 will be repaved from South 160th to South 112th Streets in Burien, forcing at least one full overnight closure southbound; and at South 174th Street in Normandy Park.
- A bigger culvert will be built for fish to swim Hylebos Creek under Highway 99 near the Pierce County line, forcing one full weekend closure and several one-lane daytime closures.
Equally important are the repairs not being done.
Maintenance budgets are gradually starving because state lawmakers and WSDOT have devoted last decade’s gas-tax increases to megaprojects — running up so much debt that 70 percent of all gas taxes are going to pay construction bonds by next year. Only $1 billion of the state’s total $6.8 billion WSDOT budget for 2013-15 was dedicated to highway maintenance and preservation.
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State Treasurer Jim McIntire has warned about the high debt load and suggested no more than 50 percent of gas taxes pay for debt.
A year ago, Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson promoted a gas-tax increase by arguing WSDOT can’t afford $32 million to repaint the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge trusses.
Lawmakers are still debating new taxes for highway projects, though painting the Northwest’s most critical bridge still hasn’t made their lists. At least 260,000 vehicles, including tens of thousands of transit riders, cross the Ship Canal on I-5 each weekday.
It’s going to rust a little more this year.
Correction: Information in this article, originally published April 20, 2015, was corrected April 21, 2015. A previous version incorrectly stated the location of bridge painting on Highway 18. The bridge over the Green River will be painted.