One weekend down, one to go

By Doug Adamson

Our crews have knocked out one of two high-traffic-impact weekends on I-5 at the US 101 interchange in Olympia. They return during the weekend of Sept. 19 to complete the effort to replace a troubled bridge joint that’s been hammered by heavy traffic since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States.

Because of the location of the work zone – a key interchange with limited alternate routes – we asked drivers to stay away. Drivers did just that.

We offer immense gratitude for drivers who avoided I-5 in Olympia during the weekend of Sept 12.

We thank drivers for:

  • Avoiding the area.
  • Traveling earlier or later in the day.
  • Using inconvenient alternative routes.
  • Staying focused while driving through the work zone.
We warned of possible 14-mile backups
We saw virtually no backups in either direction of I-5, and minimal backups on US 101 approaching I-5. Why didn’t those lengthy backups develop? It’s because drivers took our advice to heart. Drivers who avoided the area did their part. The substantial reduction in traffic even allowed crews to finish and reopen the northbound lanes 25 hours earlier than scheduled. It also helped keep the roadway open for first responders, police, and medics. 

Green = good! This traffic map image shows that on Saturday, Sept. 13,
at 3:03 p.m., traffic in both directions of I-5 was free-flowing.
WSDOT thanks drivers for responding to our request to avoid the area!
Crews used last weekend to create two separate work zones on northbound and southbound I-5.
The concentration of vehicles in the photo are where crews were excavating
old concrete, removing the old expansion joint and pouring new concrete
in the northbound lanes of I-5. They created a twin work zone
in southbound I-5 and repeated the process.

Crews complete finishing touches after replacing a failing
I-5 expansion joint in Olympia. After the concrete cured
and traffic control was removed, the roadway was
reopened to traffic.
The bridge joint spans 171 feet of northbound and southbound I-5 lanes and US 101 ramps. Crews completed half of the project during the weekend of Sept. 12. They will return to complete the job during the weekend of Sept. 19.

So you have one more weekend?

Half of the expansion joint concrete work was completed over the weekend of Sept. 12. Crews will return again over the weekend of Sept. 19 to finish the job. Because of the pinch point, we’re again asking drivers to avoid I-5 in Olympia.  Unless drivers change their travel plans, those mega-backups could quickly develop. This second time around, an additional restriction will be in place - from late Thursday, Sept. 18, to Monday morning, Sept. 22, the speed limit on northbound I-5 will be reduced to 35 mph through the work zone. Drivers on Friday can expect backups on northbound I-5 as well as on the southbound US 101 on-ramp to northbound I-5. During the weekend, there could be backups in both directions since I-5 will have reduced lanes in each direction both day and night.

During the upcoming weekend, you can see with this over-simplified
graphic that drivers will encounter closed lanes.
Northbound I-5 traffic will be shifted to the right. Vehicles will travel in an area – called a gore point – that’s generally closed to traffic. Southbound I-5 won’t have a traffic shift, but the lanes will also be reduced. The southbound I-5 exit to northbound US 101 will remain open. Note: both nearby on-ramps to I-5 (Henderson/14th Ave SE on-ramp to southbound I-5 and Deschutes Way to northbound I-5) will be closed through the weekend.

Traffic wasn’t bad at all last weekend
We ask drivers to not become complacent about the upcoming weekend given the light traffic volumes last weekend.  Our advice for the weekend of Sept. 19 remains the same: Avoid I-5 in Olympia. If you must go, travel early in the morning or late at night.

Know before you go
Check Olympia area travel cameras before you leave. Give yourself information about whether you need to avoid the area or take an alternate route.

See the project page for more information: I-5 - Vicinity Tumwater Blvd to Gravelly Lake Dr - Paving