Major Repairs Planned for 3 Miles of I-5 in South King County

Sticking with the commitment to fix the “worst of the worst” first, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced Friday that it plans to begin work on Monday, Oct. 22, to repair the most badly damaged concrete panels and grind down several miles of the most rutted pavement on I-5 in south King County.

“We would love to rip out and replace the miles and miles of failing, 50-year-old pavement on I-5 through King County,” said Paula Hammond, state transportation secretary. “Unfortunately, that’s not in the financial cards right now, but it goes without saying it’s really what needs to be done.”

Instead, with a budget of $6.7 million, contractor Interstate Improvement will cut out and replace 64 of the worst concrete panels and smooth three miles of northbound I-5 between Military Road South and South 260th Street. Nighttime lane closures begin Monday, Oct. 22, and will last through spring 2013.

This triage approach is not new to I-5. In 2009, contractor crews using specialized grinders fitted with diamond-tipped blades successfully smoothed out 10 miles of northbound and southbound I-5 between Shoreline and the Washington State Convention Center. Crews also replaced 440 concrete panels.

“Drivers told us the ride was better and nearby residents said it made the freeway quieter,” said Lorena Eng, WSDOT regional administrator. “While it doesn’t solve the long-term problem, patching up I-5 in sections is the most cost-effective way to manage the deteriorating highway for now.”

I-5 is the backbone of the Washington state economy and a vital commute and freight corridor. It sees a daily pounding of more than 200,000 cars and trucks, buses and super-load cargo. The heavy traffic and annual freeze-thaw cycle allow small cracks to grow. Maintenance crews do their best to keep the freeway humming, but with each passing year repairs become more difficult, more frequent and more expensive.

Concrete repair projects like this one in south King County improve safety by reducing the likelihood of collisions caused by cracking concrete and cut down on emergency road repairs that can lead to significant congestion.

Project details
Crews will close multiple lanes of northbound I-5 overnight to cut out the 12 by 15-foot sections of concrete. Most of the concrete panel work is located south of South 272nd Street. Panel work will be complete by December. Grinding work begins mid-winter and continues through the spring. This project is paid for by the Washington state gas tax.

Though this type of work is especially noisy, most of the construction is scheduled for the fall and winter, when residents are most likely to have their windows closed. Residents who live near the freeway may contact WSDOT for free earplugs. Drivers can get information about road closures on the Web.

WSDOT plans to do similar concrete repair and grinding on I-5 through the University District in February 2013.

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