The I-90 closure survival guide

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By Mike Allende

By now, hopefully you’ve heard that westbound Interstate 90 will be reduced to one lane at Bellevue Way Southeast from 9:30 p.m. Friday, July 18 until 5 a.m. Friday, July 25. That’s 24-hours-a-day for a week, and yes, it’s going to be messy.

During that time, contractor crews are going to be replacing two huge, old expansion joints embedded deep in the roadway near Mercer Island. They’re 33-years-old and despite repairs over the years, they are at the end of their useful life.

We don’t make decisions to do these kind of closures lightly, and a lot of thought and discussion went into it. There’s never a good time to close lanes on major highways. In the end, doing a few weekend closures like we did for our I-5 expansion joint replacement just wouldn’t work this time.

Construction details
These expansion joints are massive, much bigger than those on I-5. Each of the 33-year-old joints are 92-feet long and weigh almost 29 tons. They’re embedded into 11-inch-thick concrete. Chipping out the concrete, replacing the joints, pouring new concrete and letting that concrete cure for a minimum of 12 hours would take longer than a typical weekend-long closure allows. Once in place, between 24 – 30 hours of welding is needed to connect both sides of the new joints.

Keeping traffic moving
No two-ways about this, we’re going to need your help. Knowing what to expect and staying informed is something everyone can do. For an idea of what this closure will look like, we put together this animation showing what is closed and how cars will move through the closure.

As the animation shows, besides the three lanes of I-90, we’ll also have some ramp closures. Take a look and get an idea of how to move through the closure if you end up having to go that way.

Stage 1

Stage 2
If you don’t plan ahead, your typical commute could last an hour or more. The best advice is to avoid using westbound I-90 during the closure. With a big Sounders match and the Mariners in town, along with work and other trips, we know that’s not easy. Taking an alternate route will help, but still add extra time to your trip because other routes will be affected with folks doing the same thing. If you can telework, or even take a vacation, this would be the week to do it.

When we had two lanes closed on westbound I-90 floating bridge in July 2009, we saw up to 7-mile backups, but we had the express lanes to help. On this closure we do not. Congestion could be much worse this time around.

To keep delays from really getting horrible, we need at least 60 percent of drivers to adjust their plans. We recognize that’s a lot to ask, but every person who can change their plans helps.

The graph below shows that normal peak travel times on westbound I-90 in the closure area are up to 15 minutes in the morning, up to 30 in the afternoon. If we get a 60 percent diversion during the closure, we still expect morning travel times to be 45 minutes to 1 hour, and a little longer in the afternoon. So if there's any way for to you avoid the area that week, do it.



We wouldn’t do this closure if we didn’t have to but it’s vital to maintaining our infrastructure and avoiding emergency closures that would lead to having to replace the expansion joints anyway.

Tolls on SR 520
Folks have asked us about tolls on SR 520 during construction on I-90. SR 520 is just one route from the Eastside to Seattle. The Transportation Commission sets toll rates and exemptions and there are none for this project or other construction closures. Drivers can set up a short-term account and can save $.50 on the pay-by-mail toll rate.

Aging infrastructure
This is a safety and mobility issue. We’ve had several temporary fixes over the years, and these expansion joints simply need to be replaced before they break.  If we do nothing, this could happen during a busy commute and tie up traffic for a long time. Vehicles could be damaged and lanes of traffic closed for an indefinite amount of time. As you can imagine, you can’t just go to the store to buy a replacement expansion joint. These are custom made for the bridge, and it takes between six to nine months to fabricate.

New expansion joints to be installed
It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully with some planning and adjustments, many of you may be able to avoid the congestion that inevitably happens with a major closure like this. With many of our roads being 30 to 60 years old, this is a step we need to take to ensure they can meet the demands of day to day traffic.

Learn more about the I-90 closure on the project website.

132 comments:

Anonymous said...

What Sounders match? I think we lucked out, I don't see any in town on the schedule during that week!

Anonymous said...

The signs on 405 south at the i90 interchange and the signs at I90 west near 405 interchange say this work is starting 7/11 going until 7/18. Can you confirm that it is in fact 7/18 & the freeway signs are wrong?

Irritated says... said...

What is with the 190 backup by the hwy18 exit and North Bend? During rush hour! a 15 min commute turned into over an hour...what Construction? Where is the notice??????

Anonymous said...

The sounders game is Tottenham hotspurs. July 19th @ 1pm. Going to have to leave early.

Anonymous said...

There's one Sounders match in that time-frame. 19 July 1:00 pm. SEA vs Tottenham. It's a friendly, so it might not be on your league calendar.

political_i said...

Suggestions for people who have vacation time to use up and want to get away. USE IT

political_i said...

If you have vacation time and want to enjoy the sunshine, if you take I-90 or 520, that week might be the week to use it.

Anonymous said...

Is there a good reason why this couldn't have waited until the SR520 Eastside HOV lanes are open? Not that it would significantly help, but would be better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

The Sounders match is a friendly on the 19th, 1pm, vs. Tottenham Hotspurs. It's a full-stadium match.

Anonymous said...

As last commenter sad, please let us know the correct dates ASAP!!

Anonymous said...

It's mind-boggling to me that a drive can take less than 10 minutes at off-peak times- but almost 70 minutes during evening rush hour. SAD!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Deplorer said...

I have no idea why WSDOT thinks 60% of trips will be diverted when you've done so little to get the word out--especially when you suggest (insultingly) that we should take vacations instead of trying to work. It's not even like there are better transit options, given that you're closing the bus/carpool lanes too.

Anonymous said...

Why can't this work be limited to the evening? Why not try and be creative. We seem to have a lot of traffic snafus in this state: Big Bertha, Coak Creek PkWay (little Bertha). Come on!

Anonymous said...

Why not do this work only at night? We already have Big Bertha traffic and little Berthatraffic on Coal Creek Pkway, try to be creative.

Anonymous said...

The Sounders are playing a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur :)

Bart Treece said...

It's a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur 1 p.m. Saturday, July 19.

Suzanna said...

WHY is this being done when the Mariners have home games?!

Anonymous said...

Deplorer: Do you expect WSDOT to to come to your house and personally tell you? Do you expect them to sit down with you and make sure you have a plan. WSDOT has been talking about this for a week and a half already. Stay informed and stay involved. Watch the news, subscribe to travel alerts, check their website semi- regularly for news on summer construction, download their traffic app.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous that Washington government and WADOT would not eliminate the toll on SR520 for the week. Greed!

Anonymous said...

For everyone wondering why this can't just be done in the evenings or just over a weekend, you may want to actually read the article, which clearly explains why...

Anonymous said...

What are the plans for emergency vehicles? Will there be enough space for vehicles to pull over to allow them to pass?

Anonymous said...

My alternate route is Coal Creek Parkway...this should be a fun week...

Anonymous said...

Thanks in advance to the WSDOT crews who will be working tirelessly to repair this critical infrastructure.

As for the complainers ... this is what happens when you constantly vote DOWN infrastructure measures on the ballot. Work gets delayed until there is no choice but to do massive projects like this.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about the details of the Sounders game. This is a Blog about the construction, not the Sounders! With that ...

This needs to be done. Boeing is in that area and is allowing flexible scheduling, telecommuting etc for their employees. Microsoft and T-Mobile should follow suit.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the survival guide! For some workers who can telecommute, it's great to be able to point our boss to the facts & data to support the request.
Best wishes for a speedy & successful construction project!

Anonymous said...

So, why are the express lanes not available this time? It seems like such a nice solution to the problem...

Anonymous said...

Idiocy, completely and utterly idiotic. No regard for all the businesses that this will affect.
Literally no information available and disseminated. It is as if the completely inept WSDOT management is trying to avoid letting their public know that is happening so that they do not have to face the ire of their public. Weak and ineffective. Horribly managed.

Anonymous said...

Will the bike path be open throughout construction?

Anonymous said...

Enormous thanks to the DOT for doing this crucial work preemptively. The article above is excellent and supplied answers to many questions that posters are asking.
I especially appreciate the animated diagrams, allowing me to visualize what's up ahead and be mentally prepared for what I'll need to do.

Dana said...

When is Stage 1 going to stage 2? There is no mention of this. In stage 1 you can use bellevue way southbound to get on I90. In stage 2, you cannot. Please explain.

Bart Treece said...

Here are some responses to a few questions we've received recently.

I-90 express lanes: Since the entrance is beyond the closure area where all lanes will be open, they will remain on the normal weekday schedule. Changing this would adversely affect eastbound drivers in the afternoon.

Working at night: We would if we could, but it requires lengthy closures and can't be done piecemeal. Crews will need to cut into the road and chip away the concrete around the joints. Once the old joints are removed, the new ones are installed and cemented in place. The concrete will need time to harden and cure. Since we're replacing highway-wide joints, they are split into two, and eventually welded together. This is all very tough work to do around traffic.

Bikes: The bike path will be open during construction.

Anonymous said...

If a business posted an article like this, it would be a joke and go under in a few days. Observe:

By now, you've heard a large portion of the critical service we provide will be shut down. Yes, it's going to be messy. Too bad.

During that time, we will be doing major work and fixing big problems. Work that hasn't been done in an extremely long time.
There is never a good time to do work like this. These are problems that every single business ever has faced, but for some reason we think this is a unique challenge to us, and expect sympathy from you our consumers who we've made sure have few other options.

Details:
These things are big and heavy, did we mention they are big and heavy? because you know companies rarely do big and heavy work on time and without major inconvenience. It's not like the entire American Interstate Highway system, almost 50,000 miles, was built in a mere 35 years, or oil companies can build floating cities and move them halfway around the world on time. Big and Heavy is an entirely new realm to work in and we have alot to learn.

Keep Moving:
We're going to need your help. Here is an animation of about 1/100th the amount of traffic you would normally expect, but it will make you feel slightly less bad because you'll feel like you have a tiny bit of control.

If you don't 'plan ahead' this will seriously impact your daily life. Plans for planning ahead include - not going anywhere, taking a vacation, or inventing a flying car. Start planning, you only have two weeks.

It's up to you to figure out how to deal with this huge inconvenience, and since you have no other option and there is no competition, we couldn't be bothered to *invent* a less inconvenient option, and we've made it very difficult to make more roads over the past 30 years, you'll just have to suck it up and waste twice as much time of every day sitting in your car.

This graph shows when you need our service the most, which coincides with when we will be shutting it down. If we were a business, you would simply go to a competitor. But again, we've made it very hard for their to be any competition.

Aging Infrastructure:
This is a safety issue, which we've known about for a long time, but only now chose to do something about, albiet ineffeciently and at the most inconvenient possible times. We could also do it later, like when the new 520 is finished, but we're great at getting things done quickly and on-time, just look at our big tunnel project on the other side of Seattle! And our industry is compeltely unique in that it is not made of off the shelf parts that you can buy at Walmart, unlike heavy construction, pile driving, building construction, aircraft construction, power plant construction, etc, we have these very unique challenges. And although you'll never see a business whine about how hard it is to provide the service they sell you, we will, because you have no where else to go and no option but to suck it up. Without the government, who will build the roads?

Anonymous said...

"The concrete will need time to harden and cure"

Can't you use fast curing concrete?
Here is 'quickrete' 3,000 PSI in 3 hours, suitable for highways.
http://www.quikrete.com/ProductLines/FastSetConcreteMix.asp?gclid=COKL35fgu78CFUOSfgodEW8AWg

"Since we're replacing highway-wide joints, they are split into two, and eventually welded together."

Why can't you cut it into four pieces and weld them together. It's not like there is some rule that things can only be cut in half once.

Here are some other amazing solutions to expansions joints, included molded segmented and modular units.

Wabo®Flex is a molded rubber cushion type expansion joint system designed for heavy traffic and snowplow loading. The molded monolithic…
https://wbacorp.com/products/bridge-highway/segmental-joint-systems/wabo-flex/

Are giant steel finger joints really the only option?

Fred Armstrong said...

What about Mercer Island residents?

Anonymous said...

^ What about them? If every single NIMBY in the Seattle area was kowtowed to everytime something had to get done, nothing would get done

Bart Treece said...

@Dana - There is no hard time to transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2. It could happen between Sunday and Monday, but it depends on how the work is progressing. To keep traffic moving and to replace the highway wide joints, they will do half the road at a time. As soon as they wrap up one side of the highway, they'll shift work to the other. Finally, they’ll need to weld the two sides together in the middle.

@Fred Armstrong - The closure would only affect Mercer Island residents if they are going westbound from Bellevue.

@Anonymous - The concrete is quick drying and needs about 12 hours to cure and pass the psi test. Remember, this stuff needs to hold the weight of 85,000 cars a day for years to come.

jontran said...

What is happening with express lanes? Why can't these be dedicated west bound during this construction?

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr.Treece - Just curious, do you have traffic volume studies for the year that helped determine this specific time for lowest volume of travel coupled with adequate weather to provide minimal impact? Also, you say 24-30hrs of welding, is that single man hours or a crew of 24 to 30 people working non-stop? Last, did WSDOT look at the option of splitting up the closure to only do one half of the replacement at a time instead of back to back and then complete the middle joint weld over a weekend closure? Thx for the info!

bdolan said...

Hi WSDOT. Would love for you to answer the following...

According to your traffic charts, 10AM on the floating bridge is still considered a peak travel time.

So why do you give priority to maritime traffic starting at 10AM? Twice I've found myself stuck on 520 with a huge backup of cars at 10:01AM, standing still, all because someone with their one-person sail boat decided they wanted to float on over to lake Union.

I certainly hope you won't be opening the span on 520 during the day... that would be a real work of project management to see.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Sounds like a good week to telecommute. Thanks for the heads up.

I found out about this through a friend on facebook. Where do you sign up to get notifications about things like this?

Anonymous said...

"Bike lanes will remain open" Get on your bikes you east side fat f***s Thank you WSDOT for putting your lives on the line and working in traffic everyday for 24 hrs a day so that we all have safe roads to drive on.

Anonymous said...

Geez, people, get over it! It's one week out of your life. WSDOT has given plenty of notice. Take some responsibility and plan for yourself!

Anonymous said...

Sounders VS Totenham Hotspur (Friendly Match)
Saturday July 19 at 1 P.M.

Anonymous said...

I love the animation of <10 cars using the closure flow. Why don't you show us what 35,000 cars look like in a two hour time frame? As for all those who say "...it's only a week of your time, stop whining..." I reply that time is money and this is an inefficient way to plan and execute a major replacement operation. Stop wasting our money!

Anonymous said...

WHY don't they open up the express lanes specifically for west bound drivers during the construction?!?

Bart Treece said...

@jontran: The I-90 express lanes will remain on their regular weekday schedule during the closure. The reason being is they won’t help driving through as they are about a mile past the work zone, and all lanes of the mainline will be open prior to the entrance. Switching them would adversely affect eastbound traffic that need the additional capacity during the afternoon peak period. We will adjust for the anticipated additional demand for large weekend events, like the Sounders vs. Tottenham friendly.

@bdolan: Long ago, Congress gave priority to marine traffic over vehicle traffic. As part of securing a permit from the Coast Guard to build a bridge of navigable water, we need to make accommodations for boats. Sometimes that means building a bridge tall enough for tall ships to cross unobstructed, or have a movable drawspan. For movable spans, hours and restrictions are determined by the Coast Guard. We provide traffic information to them to help them with their decision, but ultimately they have the final say. Unfortunately, there will be no deviation for SR 520 bridge openings during I-90 construction outside of the peak hours http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR520Bridge/BridgeAndLandings/DrawspanInfo.htm. Be sure to sign up for drawspan opening alerts https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADOT/subscriber/new?topic_id=WADOT_268 and also keep an eye on the electronic highway signs for updates.

@the kind Anonymous who called me ‘Mr. Treece’: We take several factors into account for this closure, such as traffic volumes, weather impacts, and even peregrine falcon nesting (yeah, they live on the bridge). With any construction project, we’re balancing the need to get the work done while trying to minimize the impacts to traffic. With the size of these joints, it wouldn’t be a good idea to split the work up since it would leave parts of the work area exposed. With respect to welding, we’ll have a welding team. The area is very confined, so it looks like one person can work at a time.

@Anonymous: To find out more about this, you can sign up to receive our news releases through GovDelivery. From wsdot.wa.gov, look for the ‘email update’ icon in the top right part of the page. You can also follow us on Twitter, @wsdot_traffic is a great source of Seattle-area news and information.

Rob Hunter said...

If the work is being done between Mercer and Seattle why are the traffic pictures showing the interchange between Bell-way and I90? Wouldn't it be more useful to see what lane is open on the floating span? Additionally could more detail be provided as to why both the HOV and Main traffic span West bound will be closed. also Does this mean that the HOV lane will be down during the entire time?

karen predmore said...

Will the bike lanes over i-90 be open the entire time?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative and well-written post.

Bart Treece said...

@Rob Hunter: The work is actually being done on the East Channel Bridge, which connects Bellevue to Mercer Island. The HOV lane will not be closed but given the westbound entrance is beyond the work zone, it won’t help drivers get through.

@karen predmore: While traffic will be impacted on the highway, the bike and pedestrian path will be open. After the lanes open, there will be some nighttime closures where cyclists would need to dismount and be escorted through the work zone. Delays would be about 5 minutes when that happens.

Jim E said...

the negativity is astounding folks.. there is nothing to do.. heard about this weeks and weeks ago.. due diligence.. do some personal research. We all know that summer is BIG road repair time for our area. .it is the only time to get many things completed.. cause of rain and cold. So spoiled.. get a grip and relax.. just flex.. that is what life is all about. .flex.. n flow.. chill our

ItsAllAboutThe12s said...

My "commuter vessel" takes 90 West out of Issaquah, then 405 South. That exit getting on 405 South already is a nightmare. All you "Holier-than-thou" and "It's all about me" people that wait until the very end to cut in front of the people "respectfully" waiting their turn. I can't imagine how much "pissier" you people will get during this. UGH

Bruce InternetSubscriptions said...

A friend asked if they could do this during the Seafair airshow, when cars aren't allowed on 1-90?

Anonymous said...

or really... wait until there is no sounders game or mariners!!

Anonymous said...

Will the ramp from 405 north bound to I90 west bound be closed? There is signage (on the ramp) indicating that it will be closed, but the project page's animated roadway shows it as open.

Anonymous said...

Will the ramp from north bound 405 to west bound I90 be closed? Signs on ramp say yes, animation on maps says no.

Anonymous said...

Just sayin'......I personally *love* mass transit but Metro and Sound Transit are not increasing bus service this week. I bet that if they pulled in some relief bus drivers for a few extra buses during this timeframe that it would actually make a difference. Plus it would help Metro's ailing bottom line! Bonus!

Harry Verderci said...

To all the whiners - this job needs to be done, period. The blog explains why it can't be just night/weekend. We've been given PLENTY of notice. Will it be bad? Oh yeah, no doubt about it. But seriously, if being stuck in traffic for one week is the biggest problem in your life, count your blessings. Now, if we'd have had light rail across the lake like we should have 25 years ago, this wouldn't be much of an issue. But everyone from local residents to Sound Transit, to the state government to the EPA has dragged their feet forever and we're still YEARS away from it becoming reality.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Can't this wait until HOV lanes are open? I take the bus, so this would help tremendously. I assume lots of people who sometimes drive on the 520 will just stick to the bus for the time of the closure greatly reducing traffic (a number of my friends are in this category).

Anonymous said...

I live in Seattle and work on the Eastside. I just booked hotel in Issaquah for a couple days. Done.

T.K. said...

Wow! To much to read. I live in West Seattle and work in Belleuve. My plan is to drive to the Mercer Island park and ride and bike the rest of the way. Then vise versa on the way home. All lanes will be open from Mercer to Seattle, correct?

Anonymous said...

Bart,
You never answered the question about access from Bellevue Way to I-90 during the second closure.

Will all traffic be allowed to use the HOV during that time?

There is no other way for us to get to I-90 otherwise!

Please answer!

Anonymous said...

POOR PLANNING WITH ZERO OPTIONS AND VERY LITTLE NOTICE! No toll free 520 for this week? No extra buses? So leave very early which may not accommodate personal business needs, pay to get to work by using another bridge which will be highly congested or burn vacation time. I'm not impressed.

Neil Makar said...

To all the whiners - get a life. If it's that bad for you, get a hotel room on the other side for a week. This is been explained very well, and the signs have been announcing it for over a week already. How much advance notice do you need?

To Mr. Treece, This covers I-90 westbound. How about eastbound? Will those joints need to be replaced as well?

And thanks for the excellent explanations.

Anonymous said...

24 weekends since November 2011 that the 520 bridge has been closed COMPLETELY. They close it one week on I-90, and everyone loses their minds. I've been putting up with this nonsense for a long time now. Suck it up for one week.

Anonymous said...

So Many complainers in this blog. The closure has been advertised on the freeway reader boards for the last two weeks. It's not WSDOT's responsibility to take you whiners by the hand and lead you to their website for more information. It is also being advertised on the local news channels. Read the article on the massive and difficult process of this critical repair and quit your whining. If you don't like it then leave town for the week or better yet. GO BACK TO CALIFORNIA

Anonymous said...

I work in Bellevue and live on Mercer Island. I just used my vacation time and can't afford to live in a hotel for a week (while boarding two dogs). So I will be affected. My exit is East Mercer Way. Will there be access to that exit during stage 2?

Bart Treece said...

Some additional answers to questions….

Ramps from Bellevue Way SE: The HOV ramp from Access from Bellevue Way SE will be open to all when the general purpose ramp closes. That information can also be found on the project website, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/wbeastchnlbrdgexpjointrpr/.

Ramps from I-405: During the majority of the project, the ramps from I-405 to westbound I-90 will be open to traffic. However, the contractor will need to close those ramps between Friday night and Saturday morning to stripe the lane shifts. This will need to happen again between the two phases Sunday night to Monday morning and before it reopens to traffic at the end of the project. A marked detour will direct nighttime and early morning drivers

“POOR PLANNING/VERY LITTLE NOTICE”: Hopefully this will give you a little more context…We’ve identified the need to replace these worn and aging bridge expansion joints before they fail and create unexpected problems for drivers. We lined up a project to pay for this, which includes fabrication and installation. These must be scheduled so the materials can be made and delivered and the work is coordinated so we don’t close traffic on alternate routes during the closure. We started mentioning this to the public as early as May, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2014/05/28_BusySummerConstructionSeason.htm. Subsequently, we’ve been talking about the work through our social media channels, press events, ListServes (which you can sign up for on our homepage) and even the project page. If you have some additional feedback on ways we could better inform drivers, please let us know.

@Neil Makar: These westbound joints are the only ones that need to be replaced. It could be a while before the other joints need to be replaced…years.

Can it wait until the HOV project is complete?: The short answer is no. We’ve all seen what a bused expansion joint can do to regional traffic, and it’s not pretty (http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/expansion-joint-fouls-traffic-on.html). Several factors have influenced this window, such as other regional construction, busy travel weekends we don’t schedule construction projects (see the Traffic puzzle blog, http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2014/06/piecing-together-road-construction.html), even peregrine falcon nesting. There simply isn’t a “good” time to do this.

@Bruce InternetSubscriptions: We try to avoid road construction during four busy travel weekends in the Summer: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Seafair, and Labor Day. During Seafair, the I-90 floating bridge is closed between Mercer Island and Seattle. The work on the expansion joints is between Bellevue and Mercer Island.

Anonymous said...

Mr Treece-Just to clarify, is the entire stretch of I-90 west of 405going to 1 lane or is it just to a certain point )ie somewhere on Mercer Island?

What does your model say about what to expect at about 5am on the affected days?

thanks

Anonymous said...

July 20th is the Seafair Triathlon/Duathlon. The race course for the bike shows that it goes across I90 to Mercer Island and then back and into Seattle, before heading back to Seward Park. How is this going to coincide with the closures of I90 lanes? Will this race take place in the Express Lanes or the bike lanes? It wasn't clear on the event's website.

Anonymous said...

So the closure is just the stretch between 405/Bellevue Way interchange and the start (Westbound) of the E. Channel Bridge? Once you hit that, then all lanes are open across Mercer Island and into Seattle? So the usual rush hour backup just shifts East - instead of taking 30 minutes to cross Mercer Island, it will take 30-45 minutes to get to MI, and then will be clear sailing as the traffic lanes open up? I'm sure it'll be horrible, but I'm so used to sitting on MI for 30 minutes during rush hour that I'm not sure it'll be that much different.

Bart Treece said...

Answers to a few recent questions:

Travel Time: The closure area will end near E. Mercer Way. The graph in the blog show that with 60 percent diversion, travel at 5 a.m. will be pretty good. However, we’ve seen that drivers change their behavior during a major construction impact. They tend to spread the commute periods out by leaving much earlier and much later.

Seafair Triathlon: The triathlon will use the express lanes (not the bike lane) in the morning of Sunday, July 20. The lanes will be open westbound by noon.

Mercer Island traffic on I-90: Once you reach Mercer Island from Bellevue, traffic should move pretty well. It’s just getting through the work zone is the toughest part.

Bart Treece said...

@anonymous with a question about the East Mercer Way off-ramp. It will be open during much of the closure, except for during periods where they restripe the lanes to shift traffic. This is scheduled for nighhttime and early morning hours.

bdolan said...

@Bart Treece

Thanks for answering the question on 520 bridge openings; your diligence in answering readers’ questions are much appreciated! The question which follows from your response is: did the city, state, or governor's office make a formal request to the Coast Guard to make an exception to midday openings during this week of construction. It would seem that that this would be granted and should at least be requested by the WSDOT office. A 520 opening during this period, midday, would make a large impact on business and workers even larger.

Sherri Sunshine said...

Bart Treece - Thank you for your thoughtful answers to so many questions! I admire your patience even though there were so many repetitive questions seemingly from people who didn't read the entire article. I thought the article was well written and very informative. While the closure of the East Channel Bridge will not affect my commute I will forward your article on to family and friends who it may impact.
Thank you again,
Sherri Sunshine

Anonymous said...

How far do you foresee the traffic backing up? Issaquah? It doesn't drop down to one lane until Bell Way but will the bottleneck be felt much, much earlier? Any suggestions for folks who would be getting off of90 before than the closure (like 156th in Bellevue) that live east of Issaquah?

Anonymous said...

Why are the tolls on 520 not being lifted? It's greedy. I feel like I'm being pushed into a corner. No, I can't afford $65 extra dollars to get to work that week, no I can't take time off of work, and no, I can't just rent an even more expensive hotel room for that many days. My work does not allow telecommuting, or a change in my hours. There are no solutions to me, and this is ridiculous. At least make things easier for the people who have no other solutions and cannot afford to pay extra for a bridge taxpayers already paid for.

Anonymous said...

Why do the people of Seattle just accept what government officials tell them? Why can't this work be done just in the evening? You know these are the same people who brought us Big Bertha and the Coal Creek Parkway construction fiasco.

Anonymous said...

What was the thought process with regard to reducing I-90 westbound to one lane for a week - without making the under-utilized HOV lanes open to westbound traffic during this time?

I have to say... I do NOT get this.

I would actually ask, "What were they thinking," but obviously there was no thought process here.

OMG! Somebody needs to loose a job - or political office (or both).

Anonymous said...

WHY isn't Metro/SoundTransit offering additonal buses?? Why can't we base this off of the San Francisco model - on high smog days, all mass transportation is free. They bring on extra drivers and extra BART trains and they're all crowded, but people move through no problem, and traffic is significantly reduced. If you bring on a whole bunch of extra buses and even offer half off of the fare, you'd solve a lot of your traffic issues without people needed to get hotel room or take time off work. Thanks for making _us_ solve _your_ problems by bending over backwards for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the informative Survival Guide! I appreciate the effort that goes into minimizing the impact and understand that this will get ugly. I deal with the Big Bertha mess everyday and have directed my own anger at the company that knowingly shipped it with bad seals. Am I wrong? Is it really all WSDOT's fault?

Some additional advice for all those that'll be dealing with the horrible traffic: 1) Make sure the gas tank is at least half full before committing yourself. Idling for an hour or two uses gas too! Don't be that guy whose car can't make across and adds to the mess.

2) Never biked to work before? Excellent time to try it! Bilke trails feed the I-90 bridge bike lane from all sides. It will be the very fastest way across the lake, even if you ride slow. :-)

Mike Allende said...

Answers to a few more questions:

We are anticipating potential backups of 10 miles during peak commute times. We also anticipate side streets leading up to the closure area to see heavy congestion as people work to get around. The best bet is really to leave as early as you possibly can to reach your destination. We will have Incident Response Team workers nearby to clear any blocking situations as quickly as possible.

Questions about why SR 520 tolls are not being lifted should be directed to the Washington State Transportation Commission as they govern tolling. Contact information, as well as an information sheet addressing your question, can be found here: http://www.wstc.wa.gov/.

As the blog addresses, there is simply too much work to be done on this project to do it with a series of overnight closures. If we could do that, we would. Reducing a major highway to one lane for a week straight isn't something we're looking forward to, but it's necessary work to preserve our infrastructure. Due to the size of the expansion joints, their depth in the concrete, along with other factors, doing the work overnight isn't an option.

Mike Allende said...

A few more answers:

We're anticipating potential backups as much as 10 miles during peak commute times. We also expect side streets leading up to the closure to see significant congestion, so the best advice I can give is to leave as early as you can to reach your destination. We will have Incident Response Team trucks nearby to help clear any blocking situations as quickly as possible.

Questions about lifting SR 520 bridge tolls should be directed to the Washington State Transportation Commission, as they govern tolling. Contact information for the WSTC, and also an informational page addressing your question, can be found here: http://www.wstc.wa.gov/.

As the blog discusses, there is simply too much work that goes into this project to get it done through overnight closures. If we could do that, we would, as we're not looking forward to reducing a major highway to one lane for a week. We understand the issues that such a closure presents and we wouldn't do it if we didn't have to. But this is necessary work to maintain our aging infrastructure.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell from the animation whether the Richards Road on-ramp to I-90 westbound will be open during construction. Can you advise?

Bart Treece said...

@bdolan: The U.S. Coast Guard requires 90-day advanced notice in order to consider prohibiting opening of the SR 520 floating bridge for marine traffic. WSDOT could not meet this deadline. However, WSDOT proactively coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard and will implement a strategy that will significantly limit the number of openings, and balances the needs of drivers and marine traffic during the construction closure on I-90.

@Sherri: Thank you!

RE: Richards Road – Richards Road to westbound I-90 will be open.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make sense to have to close all but one lane on I-90 for 7 days straight when the WSDOT crew did a similar expansion joint replacement on I-5 a few weeks ago without closing the lanes for more than one day. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i5/seattlebridgerepair/

Chris B said...

@Bart Treece - I am attempting to get off work but as your article only cites 1 hour delay...which most know from traveling the route will likely be 3 hours, I am having a tough time convincing my boss that it makes sense to work from home.

Why does this article seriously downplay what will be 2-4 hour long commutes during typical work travel time and can something official be put out there that actually reflects the likely situation, and not the assumed "60% of people somehow don't travel" situation.

An hour long commute into Seattle during rush hour is fairly common with just a single lane closure and downplaying the likely length of the back ups will simply make more people make an attempt at the commute.

Anonymous said...

Buck up, WSDOT. You're doing the right thing getting it done in one fell swoop rather than several closures over a longer period. The people complaining are dealing with first-world problems. Let them worry about folks living on the streets or those without enough food or how much unfairness in the world there is while they are sitting in their cars wondering why such bad luck as a traffic jam has befallen them.

Bart Treece said...

@Chris B: It really depends on where you go during your commute. If I-90 to Mercer Island is your route, it could take a very long time to get through the work zone. The graph on the blog show travel times from Bellevue being in the hour range with 60 percent of the usual drivers going elsewhere.

We get the questions like, "How bad will it be?" or "How long will backups stretch?" It really depends on what drivers do. Other routes will be affected. We need drivers to help us keep traffic moving by making adjustments to their travel routes, modes of transportation and commute times.

Chris B said...

@Bart Treece Totally understand - I know it isn't easy. In my case it's a commute from downtown Bellevue to downtown Seattle using the 550 bus - I've had this commute last 2 hours in the past for something as simple as an accident on the 405 (not even on 90).

My point is that an hour long back up is actually a fairly normal occurrence. This won't be normal, the back up time for anyone traveling even the shortest distance (Bellevue to Seattle) is going to be hours, and giving a projection that starts with just "1 hour" doesn't portray the severity of the situation.

Just a guy trying to work from home but can't because it looks like my commute will be just "1 hour".

Anonymous said...

Is there a complete list of all the ramp closures for Friday 7-18 night? I see signs on most of all the ramps. Will Richards road/Factoria on-ramp be open?...no closure sign on that one. This info would be helpful for those of us who work night shift.

Rob said...

Take the tunnel under Lake Washington. Take Highway 18 to Federal Way, I5 to Tacoma, Highway 16 to Bremerton and the ferry to Coleman Dock. This might be faster.

Anonymous said...

What other routes are there apart from the 520 bridge if you are coming from the eastside ...!? Really nice to give people a break that commute and also right in time with the tolls going up on the 520. Seriously, the traffic and bus coordination in Seattle is really beyond bad. I might as well swim!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks to WSDOT for the posted warnings on all roadsigns in and out of Seattle. Very effective use of the message boards, press and media. Anyone who didn't know this was coming lives under a rock. Also keeping up with infrastructure should be a legislative priority. Appropriate funding for roadways and bridges and other infrastructure should be one of the largest priorities. What is missing from Seattle and the US is LARGE scale funding and the willingness to embrace MASS TRANSIT! this problem will keep getting worse until we all realize that the only sustainable solution is mass transportation that does not use fossil fuels.

Bart Treece said...

@Chris B - We're talking about a couple different things. It will take a projected hour to get through the work zone with 60 percent diversion. Depending on where you're coming from, you could expect an additional hour tacked onto your normal commute.

@Anonymous - looking for a list of all the lane and ramp closures, here it is http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/wbEastChnlBrdgExpJointRpr/LaneAndRampClosures.htm.


Juanonymous said...

The projections are based on 60% diversion, where did these numbers come from? Was it done by the same people who did the revenue projections for the 520 tolling?

Also, what are the projections for the commute times on the 520 (so what percentage of the 60% who divert (either telecommute, carpool/vanpool, mass transit or take 520) are expected to take the 520 instead and what impact will this have on the 520 commute?)

Bart Treece said...

@Juanonymous:
These numbers are crunched by our Traffic Management Center engineering team. It's based on the 2009 closure where The 60 percent diversion was based on numbers from the partial closure of westbound I-90 in 2009.

We do expect some diversion to SR 520, but it's tough to pin down a percentage and it could change. The longer the backup and delay, the more people change course on the fly.

Anonymous said...

My advice to everyone is to pack your patience!

Anonymous said...

Insanity to stay living in the Seattle area. Congestion is horrible. Infrastructure is dilapidated. Graffiti, trash, & weeds, everywhere. I guess maybe the stoners don't care. I left and live a far less stressful life.

Anonymous said...

Now we hear Obama coming to down on tuesday, turning an already bad situation to unbelievably horrible... reschedule this fix to a time that vehicle trips across the bridge are low... like christmas break! Unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

^ So many armchair construction planners bloviating on miracle fixes for this problem. I urge everyone to read the blog before commenting.

Chris B said...

@Bart Treece Thanks again for a response. What are the projections for no diversion/10%/30%/etc. - getting 60% of people to change their routine seems unlikely - what is the worst case scenario?

Anonymous said...

Bart, even on a totally normal week, 7pm Mariners games have a noticeable impact on westbound traffic. Why couldn't this have been done on a week when they're not here, like the week after? Seems like a really boneheaded move. Twice the pain.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry everyone as this is just the precursor to when they eliminate the express lanes to install the light rail.

These backups will become the norm and the light rail will be under utilized.

Bart Treece said...

@Chris B - We saw up to 60 percent diversion in 2009 when there was work on the floating bridge between Mercer Island and Seattle. The graph is there to illustrate projected delays with the same kind of diversion. The reality is, we don't know exactly what drivers will do. We can expect heavier traffic on alternate routes, we could even see less traffic across the system. We just hope people take this information so they can plan their week.

@Anonymous - There are no "good" times to do this work. We try to avoid scheduling large construction projects during special events like the Sounders and the Mariners, but it's not always possible. There are other projects that need closures and we coordinated so this closure doesn't conflict with an alternate route. We have a limited amount of time to get the work done and this was the best window to make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Sounders play at 1:00pm Saturday VS Tottenham

Anonymous said...

Will WSDOT be opening the express lanes to westbound traffic on I90?

Casey Smyth said...

The amount of entitlement here is impressive. I'd applaud if it weren't so sad.

What do you guys want, a freeway that can handle the day to day stresses of tens of thousands of cars, that sometimes requires maintenance (and in this case, very significant maintenance) or a freeway like the one in Michigan that snapped in half?

Which? Pick. If you were smart and picked the first, this is the cost. If you were silly and picked the second, you are being protected from yourself anyway.

I've commuted from Puyallup, Tacoma and now West Seattle to Bellevue for the last eight years. Guess what? Sometimes stuff has to be done. Why was this timeframe chosen? Because some timeframe had to be chosen. You'd be complaining if this was August 8th-August 15th too, and you know it.

It needed to be free of rain, which meant summer time.

You can't demand all the services and opportunities of an expansive freeway system while still expecting to be maintenance-free, and be considered a rational person all at the same time.

Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Look at the gif image.. it explains what will be open when.. phase 1, westbound express lanes will not be open.. phase 2, they'll be open to all - so they are not "express" anymore. so answer is probably "NO".

Bob G said...

Vehicles are using less gas, but not less roads. It's time to tax vehicles by miles travelled + weight (i.e., Pay for what you use.). And it's time to stop spending more tax money in Eastern WA than they generate. Instead, focus on roads in the Puget Sound that are woefully over-capacity and under-maintained.

Anonymous said...

PresidentialVisit
I heard on the news last night that President Obama will be making a visit to our region next Tuesday and it will further impact the 520 and I-90 bridges. Any further info?
Thanks for your great answers, Mr. Treece!

Bart Treece said...

RE: Presidential Visit - We really don't know where and when on Tuesday. We do know that this could really tie-up traffic. Stay plugged in, you can see how traffic is or isn't moving on the WSDOT Seattle Traffic page or the WSDOT mobile app.

RE: I-90 express lanes - It's about a mile from the edge of the work zone, so they won't help. We've been asked this a lot, so we wrote a blog that explains in more detail. http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/i-90-express-lanes-vital-for-both.html

Katherine said...

WSDOT - why not close the single lane to all traffic except HOV riders - add extra buses to run us between transit stations East-West. Promote use of our public transport system and make public transport the fastest way to cross the bridge.
Just my suggestion. A little late for implementation now.

Lauren A. said...

Wow. And I thought my job sucked. Hang in there, Mr. Treece. You're doing a completely thankless job and handling it well by sorting through all these comments and answering and reanswering all the questions.

To those complaining, the WSDOT didn't do this on a whim to ruin your day and I for one will gladly trade a week of long commutes for being safe from another bridge failure in the future.

Bart Treece said...

@Katherine - We coordinate our closures with transit agencies. We are urging folks to use car or van pools. It's just not realistic to restrict the single open lane for HOV.

@Lauren A - Thank you. We want people to have the best travel information so they can make good decisions. We also strive to be transparent and this blog provides a direct connection to you. As you can see, we welcome questions and constructive feedback. It only helps direct our outreach. Seeing comments that understand the reasoning and timing for the work are all the appreciation we need. Even better if people take the information and make a change to their commute during the closure.

Anonymous said...

I'll take a week of major maintenance of I-90 over any Mariners or Sounders game any day or week of the year.

Infrastructure repair trumps boyhood games played by millionaires. And those games can be viewed on TV.

A week of repairs for another 30 years of safe travels on I-90 is a no-brainer.

Thank you WSDOT for keeping our roads in safe working order.

Anonymous said...

Brought to you the same engineers that screwed up the 520? WSDOT seems to run by D- planners and engineers. Maybe they need some new blood, preferably not hired from the shallow end of the pool. Is there a way to wager on this getting screwed up?

Anonymous said...

While clearly this is necessary work, why won't WSDOT plan this when the M's aren't in town. Also the express lanes on I-90 should be open WESTBOUND this whole time, to help get Westbound communters to their destination ASAP after the closure. We understand that the express lanes won't help you avoid the closure, but WSDOT needs to help our overall drive time. EXPLAIN THIS to us WSDOT! Totally unacceptable that you're keeping the express lanes going EAST during rush hour/M's games and this mess.

Neil said...

I know it's much less of an impact, but is it possible to post the Saturday/Sunday travel times as well?

Mike Allende said...

@Neil - We will be staffing our Traffic Management Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and updating traffic conditions and travel times on our @wsdot_traffic Twitter account. As for what we've seen in the past, it would look fairly similar to weekday, with some spikes for special events.

@Anonymous: We couldn't do this work during the All-Star break as it coincided with a SR 520 closure. Doing it the week of 7/29 to 8/3, that would push it up against Seafair, when we traditionally don't do road work because of increased congestion. While Mariners games increase traffic, it's not as much as Seafair does.
We have a blog (http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2014/07/i-90-express-lanes-vital-for-both.html) about why we are maintaining the normal schedule for the express lanes. Traffic should be flowing normally once you reach the express lanes. Improving drive times more than that would mean you'd be speeding to catch up. Meanwhile, not running it eastbound would completely shut down traffic coming back from Seattle in the afternoon. We would see backups on city streets, out of downtown, on Rainier, on I-5. There is significantly more traffic going eastbound on I-90 in the afternoon than westbound and we have to account for that.

Anonymous said...

I think suggestions like doing this at night and taking a vacation are helpful.

Frankly, if I had any vacation left that's exactly what I would do.

We've waited 30 years, would working evenings and weekends make a difference time-waise?

I suspect its the labor cost: nights & weekends are double & triple time pay.

Anonymous said...

Who said Obama could visit during the I-90 closure? What a great idea!

Anonymous said...

I am unclear on what will be happening with the HOV lanes during this time. Will they still be open westbound in the morning M - F? Will buses/carpools be able to continue on the normal route the whole way or will there be a detour?

Anonymous said...

It would be great to get an idea/projections of the saturday afternoon/evening back ups westbound where WB I-90 meets NB I-405. I got a carload of kids heading that direction. Should I go around via I-202 to Monroe?

Stephen Matlock said...

It's going to be fine. We'll make it through this. We've had two weeks' notice, and we can figure out alternate plans.

As has been pointed out many times, it's a 90-foot-wide set of beams that have to be replaced in foot-thick concrete. The existing beams have to be removed by chipping out the concrete. The area needs to be inspected thoroughly for damage, the new beams inserted and welded, and the concrete replaced. Then it all has to set/cure for a while.

I'd rather have this inconvenience than a bridge suddenly failing like we've seen in other places, including Minneapolis and Everett.

We are perhaps too dependent upon a few bridges, and we won't spend money on other alternatives or even on maintenance and repair. We have bridges and roads across the state that need to be inspected, repaired, and brought up to modern standards. This week-long closure is a good signal to us on how much we depend upon well-maintained roads and bridges, and on how little we pay attention until something spectacular has to happen to get something fixed.

JewelyaZ said...

@BartTreece this blog post and many other articles about this and other projects reflect excellent technical writing, and I appreciate your efforts as a fellow technical communicator. I also headdesk right along with you at the questions and comments from folks who CLEARLY did not READ the post before they complained!

I am doing my part to help this commute! First, I live three miles away from work and don't use any highways at all to get there. Second, I am working in Rockville, MD, for a week. LOL

Seriously, complainers: first-world problems. You live in one of the prettiest places in the world, you probably have a decent job that pays well more than the national average, and if you think traffic is bad here, there are some other cities you should try: Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas all come to mind. This is a small inconvenience for one week -- and really, for FOUR work days -- and it should keep things working for 30+ more years.

I do think transit should double the buses across 520 next week, and I think transit should be free all the time (there are major cities who do it, with great success; Google it if you don't believe me!)

Thanks again, Washington DOT folks. You take a lot of crap from the people you work for, because we don't understand what exactly you have to do for us. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bart,
Thanks for your responses-not an easy task!
I was wondering if you could clarify which off-ramps (heading into and out of Mercer Island) will be closed during the week. I think I read, "some ramp closures" and it wasn't clear to me which ones. Unfortunately, I need to go exactly from Bellevue to Mercer Island, only this week! My bad luck. Oh well! I agree w previous posters, everyone needs to realize the alternative is catastrophic failure!!! No thanks! Keep it in perspective people! Full tank of gas, snacks, good music, happy thoughts and a bathroom break BEFORE you get in the car. :) Make it safe, get 'er done.
Thanks for your time,
Julie

Bart Treece said...

@JewelyaZ: Thanks

Anonymous question about Mercer Island ramps: The westbound I-90 ramp to East Mercer Way will be closed while the work zone is switched to the north side of the bridge. This is scheduled to happen between 10 p.m. tonight and 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. However, this may be accelerated once the concrete on the south end joints sufficiently hardens. In that case, it will be around 8 p.m. This will happen again at the end of the project when the contract removes all of the equipment, resets the barricade and restripe the lanes. Here’s a list of all of the closures http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/I90/wbEastChnlBrdgExpJointRpr/LaneAndRampClosures.htm

Anonymous said...

Will 405 be good? Any suggestions on going to airport from Issaquah?

jeanne marie said...

wow.....looks like this was not the issue we had feared! the media hyped, people paid attention and look what we can do when we put our minds to it.
no telling what it might be like tomorrow with the President in town but my guess is not as bad as the 'carmageddon' we all predicted.
Thanks Bart for your attention to this blog and all of our silly questions -- you have the patience of a saint!!

Anonymous said...

I have to ask how many of the folks who commented on hype technical aspects of this project are professional engineers and thus QUALIFIED to comment?
Just asking?

 

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