The new asphalt surface was completed, and the right freeway lane reopened, around 3 a.m., said spokesperson Marcus Humberg of the Washington State Department of Transportation. “We’re happy to see this project done, for sure,” he said.
The job is one of about 90 emergency repairs the contractor is performing in King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties from mid-August until April, under a $7 million contract.
The North Bend site was placed near the top of the list, to get done before the holiday as a “higher priority,” WSDOT project engineer James Harper said Tuesday. Holiday traffic can exceed 2,500 vehicles per hour middays, so travelers are advised to avoid delays by traveling early or late, even with a full set of lanes.
Resurfacing will also occur soon on nearby Highway 202 between Snoqualmie and Fall City, and sections of Highway 9 in Whatcom County, officials said. The contract also includes many rough spots of I-405 on the Eastside.
For months, drivers have squeezed from three lanes into two where I-90 crosses the South Fork Snoqualmie River, in a 70 mph zone on a curve. Motorists complained about surprise speed changes and even congestion as drivers jockey for position on busy weekends.
Like many states, Washington has historically underinvested in road maintenance, and in many places, the concrete panels along Snoqualmie Pass are wearing out faster than fresh surfaces are installed.
However, WSDOT blames unique conditions, not procrastination or low funding, for the unusual shutdown of a freeway lane. Massive snowstorms, along with cold temperatures under the river bridge, created gaps so large that a quick pothole patch would have rapidly scoured away, officials said.
WSDOT bundled its North Bend repairs with the four-county contract to save money and to allow time for traffic-control planning, Harper said. Heavy spring rains were another reason for not doing a separate overnight repave sooner, he said.
There are six potholes, as deep as 2 inches, where waterproof fabric membrane and crumbled blacktop have been exposed. Even the concrete tops of bridge girders have been exposed, and would require special care from contractors during grinding Tuesday night, but they’re in good condition, Harper said.
In separate projects, crews will repair a westbound I-90 ramp from Issaquah Highlands, along with rugged pavement next to a soggy Issaquah hillside, starting the night of Sept. 11. That job will require lane closures.
The Legislature set aside $3 billion for maintenance in the 16-year, $17 billion Move Ahead Washington package this year, to be paid mainly by vehicle and driver’s license fee increases, and taxes on carbon.