Kris Olsen, WSDOT communications, 206-440-4704
Up to three lanes closed around the clock for seven days beginning July 18
MERCER ISLAND – Drivers have a little more than one week left to make plans for seven days of major lane closures along westbound Interstate 90 between Bellevue and Mercer Island.
Beginning Friday, July 18, up to three westbound lanes on the interstate will be closed around the clock while contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation replace two aging and deteriorating 92-foot-long bridge expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge.
The lane closures will affect traffic on many of the Eastside’s key commute corridors including I-405 and State Route 520. WSDOT urges drivers to make alternate plans such as carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, using an alternate route, or adjusting their schedule to take advantage of off-peak travel times.
Traffic engineers estimate the best times to travel will be before 6 a.m., between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and after 7 p.m. Engineers estimate more than half of the 85,000 drivers that use westbound I-90 each day will need to use another route or an alternate travel mode to keep travel times at one hour or less from Issaquah to Seattle.
“We need drivers to change the way they commute for seven days so that WSDOT can complete this important safety work,” said WSDOT Traffic Engineer Mark Bandy. “We will see backups from this work, but if enough drivers do their part we can keep them manageable.”
Closure details at a glance
The I-90 center roadway
The center roadway will operate on its normal schedule. The entrance near East Mercer Way will remain open only to HOV vehicles when the lanes are in the westbound direction. The entrance to the center roadway is after the construction zone so changing the express lanes operation will not help westbound I-90 drivers get past the work.
Travelers who use westbound I-90 should consider the following:
Know before you go and have a backup plan
Those who must drive are encouraged to stay engaged and check traffic conditions frequently via WSDOT’s web, mobile and phone based traveler information systems.
Drivers should also be aware of several special events in the Seattle area occurring during the closure that could cause additional congestion:
“There is never a good time to do a closure like this because someone is always going to be inconvenienced,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “However this is vital highway preservation and safety work.”
Expansion joints play a critical role in how a bridge functions. They allow sections of a bridge to expand and contract with changing temperatures and traffic. Failing expansion joints are a safety hazard to drivers and can cause a bridge to bend, crack or even collapse. WSDOT maintenance crews have made several emergency fixes to the expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge but a permanent fix is needed.
During the closure, the crews will chip the concrete away from the two existing expansion joints on each end of the bridge. The joints, which are 33-years-old and have broken seals and are leaking water into them, will be lifted out. The new expansion joints are each 92-feet-long with a combined weight of more than 29 tons. A large crane will be used to lift the joints into place, and contractor crews will secure the joints and pour new concrete around them.