#I90to1 keeps on truckin'

by Bart Treece

Something has been missing from the morning commutes this week, where westbound I-90 has been reduced to a single lane near Bellevue Way for expansion joint replacement. Traffic has moved relatively smoothly so it’s only natural to ask, “Where are the foreboding traffic tie-ups the clairvoyants of the commute have dubbed, ‘Carpocalypse?’”

Click to view a Storify from today's tweets

The smooth sailing on the expressway and throughout the Eastside and Seattle area can be attributed to you, the commuter. You are doing your part in keeping regional traffic moving during construction. The proof is in the numbers. If you’re ready to get your inner traffic geek on, here you go.

Follow the red line on this graph which shows the commute beginning earlier on Monday, and then holding steady throughout the day, effectively spreading the traffic. Drivers left for work earlier, with the single westbound I-90 lane carrying nearly double the number of typical vehicles in the 4 a.m. hour. By 7 a.m., the peak hour of diversion, westbound I-90 was carrying nearly 60 percent fewer cars and trucks. 

With folks diverting to other routes or staying off the road, it allowed drivers to squeeze into a single lane approaching the construction zone. Travel times from Issaquah to Seattle peaked at 35 minutes. So, even though it looked like a small backup approaching, it was still a slog.

The toughest part of the construction work is welding the two halves of the expansion joints that equal 82 feet. This began at 6 a.m. today, and could take up to 30 hours. After the work passes a series of tests, concrete will be poured in to seal the joint and will need time to harden. To get an idea of why this work needed to happen, here's a look at one of the expansion joints the contractor pulled out.

These circles show the cracks in the steel, and there's not much keeping it together.

With previous closures, we've seen drivers return to their old habits after a few days, which results in longer travel times and bigger backups. Hopefully, everyone will keep doing what they've been doing so come Friday, life can return back to normal.