Traffic on southbound Interstate 5 will shrink to two lanes near Southcenter during five weekends this summer, creating delays for travelers. The state is repaving in the area.

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Traffic on southbound Interstate 5 will shrink to two lanes near Southcenter during five weekends this summer, creating delays for travelers.

The “South King Slowdown” begins at 11 p.m. Friday, continuing until 5 a.m. Monday, between South 188th Street and South 219th Street, just uphill from the Westfield Southcenter Mall.

Three southbound lanes will be closed — followed by similar slowdowns the next two July weekends.

I-5 weekend delays

Weekend repaving will shrink southbound I-5 from five lanes to two near Southcenter, from 11 p.m. Fridays until 5 a.m. Mondays, causing a #southkingslowdown.

July 15-18, 22-25 and July 29-Aug. 1:

Lane reductions on the hill south of Westfield Southcenter Mall. Exits to I-405, the mall and Highway 518 (Sea-Tac airport) remain open. No southbound entry from South 188th Street or South 200th Street onramps. Entry from I-405 to southbound I-5 is closed the first weekend only.

Aug. 12-15:

Road work moves north, between the Duwamish River bridge and Klickitat Drive near Southcenter. No southbound entry allowed from Highway 900 (Boeing Access Road) or I-405.

Aug. 19-22:

Three left lanes closed on the Duwamish River bridge. Ramps stay open.

Source: Washington State Department of Transportation

The July work zone will stay south of the Interstate 405/Highway 518 interchange, allowing drivers to still reach Renton, Burien, the mall and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, though traffic could be sluggish.

But there will be two August closures that will crimp the freeway farther north involving the Duwamish River bridge, making it even tougher to reach the big Southcenter interchange.

Workers operating heavy machinery will pulverize the 50-year-old concrete panels, compact the rubble, then lay an 8-inch layer of asphalt over the roadbed. Four expansion joints will be replaced on the river bridge.

The work is part of a 13-mile, $27 million project between Tukwila and Federal Way. Work will be completed next year.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) won’t predict an exact time or distance for delays.

By midmorning, the traffic jams could rival this spring’s SnoCo Squeeze in Marysville, where WSDOT reported weekend delays as long as five miles, while workers replaced expansion joints on three slough bridges.

The Southcenter area offers more detours than Marysville, but weekend traffic is also one-third heavier, at 86,000 cars per day.

Motorists can bypass I-5, then re-enter southbound via Highway 516, the Kent-Des Moines Road: On the east side, follow Highways 167 or 181 (West Valley Highway) to meet Highway 516 and climb uphill. West of I-5, follow Highway 509 and Highway 99 (International Boulevard South) beyond the airport, then turn left at Highway 516.

The state encourages people to use transit and carpools — but express buses offer little advantage, because the high-occupancy lanes will be converted to general traffic, or be closed for repairs. Travelers may catch Link light rail in SeaTac/Airport or Tukwila International Boulevard stations, where park-and-ride stalls frequently fill before sports events. The Sounders FC play LA Galaxy at noon Saturday.

“We also want them to think about traveling at different hours than they normally would,” said WSDOT spokesman Tom Pearce. Early mornings tend to work best.

Another mess looms in Seattle, where eastbound Interstate 90 lanes will be reduced and funneled into the express lanes at Rainier Avenue South this weekend. That chokepoint often creates overflows onto I-5 in Sodo. Road lanes, lights and fire-suppression equipment are being changed, to relocate the I-90 carpool lanes and build future light rail next year.

“We feel like these projects are far enough apart,” Pearce said. “We’re going to see congestion throughout the region with this, but there are other alternatives for drivers.”

“There are only so many weekends on which these things can be done.” Pearce said construction contracts forbid construction on the Seafair Weekend, Aug. 5-8, when hydroplane races are held on Lake Washington.

After this summer’s I-5 weekend repaving, there will be overnight closures in places along southbound I-5, followed by major work next year northbound.