Advice from the afternoon @wsdot_traffic gal could save you heartache over the long weekend

By guest blogger Harmony Haveman Weinberg, aka @wsdot_traffic afternoon gal

As the official eyes of the afternoon Seattle commute, I see gnarly, nasty, unexpected and unpredictable traffic backups. Just how bad is the frustration among those stuck in a backup? Well, imagine being around your sweetie who did not receive flowers on Valentine’s Day. Yes. Drivers can feel that frustrated.

(Pssst: The holiday is Friday, Feb. 14! You’ve been warned.)

While some traffic events are unavoidable, dealing with major backups on southbound Interstate 5 in Seattle this weekend can be prevented. How? Well, it’s really all up to you, the individual driver.

You have the power, but I want to help.

I have some tips to guide you. Consider this my Valentine’s gift to you. But unlike the mystery of an unmarked box of chocolates, these tips will help you know what you are going to get.What’s that? You want to give me a gift, too? Here’s what I’d really like (besides roses and chocolate, of course): Help us spread the love this Valentine’s Day weekend by making sure all your loved ones get the message and plan ahead too.

When can I expect major backups this weekend?
  • Any time from 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 through 5 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18

Where’s the construction?
  • Two of three lanes on southbound I-5 between Pine Street (just north of the Washington State Convention Center)  and I-90 in downtown Seattle. During the closure we will replace four highway-wide expansion joints.
Crews chipped away concrete and debris last month in preparation
to replace a 50-year-old expansion joint.

But I have to drive into Seattle this weekend!
  • Avoid southbound I-5 into the city if possible. SR 99 is the best alternative.
  • All on- and off-ramps in downtown Seattle will remain open.
  • We’re keeping the I-5 express lanes open southbound until 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. This helps provide more access to the downtown Seattle on- and off-ramps, especially useful for carpoolers (hint, hint). However, and I stress however, they will not help you avoid the big closure because where they end, the construction begins. The I-5 express lanes will operate southbound on Monday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Can you carpool? Take public transit? Take rail? Maybe work from home if you don’t get Presidents Day off?
  • Local streets are also good alternates.
  • If you plan to travel south of downtown, consider using southbound I-405.
Will I be able to access I-90?
  • You betcha! The collector distributor, which runs parallel to southbound I-5, will be open allowing you to access I-90.  See map below.

History speaks for itself:
  • We’ve had closures like this before. A few weeks ago it took folks traveling northbound about 50 minutes to get through the work zone. The alternate routes were underutilized. This weekend can be different, but the keys to change this are in the hands of drivers. Have your plan ready to go and avoid backups.
Why is the closure happening on the long President’s Day holiday weekend?
  • There’s really no good time to reduce southbound I-5 to one lane in Seattle. With that said, this is crucial work that needs to be completed as soon as possible. While we make sure road work isn’t taking up lanes on busy travel holidays like Memorial or Labor Day weekends, President’s Day is different. It’s not a holiday for everyone but historically there are fewer vehicles on the road. Also, by working until the wee hours of Tuesday morning we can pack two weekends worth of expansion joint repair work into a single one.
@wsdot_twitter will not leave you!
  • Follow us on Twitter! We will be working throughout the weekend! Our team will stay on top of the traffic conditions.
  • Get the app! Let’s just say, it could be your best friend this weekend (besides, of course, your Valentine)
Remember, you have the power to keep traffic backups to a minimum! Together… We can do this!