Monday morning July 21 update: Traffic impacts light through weekend, but WSDOT warns drivers not to get complacent. Check online traffic information resources listed below before you travel.
One of the biggest highway construction closures of the summer has begun onwestbound Interstate 90 near Mercer Island. Westbound traffic is reduced to just one lane around-the-clock. During the closure, contractor crews from Mowat Construction will replace two 33-year-old, 92-foot-long expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge just west of Interstate 405.
WSDOT officials said that contractor crews will need seven days to replace these joints due to their size, and the fact that they are deeply embedded into the concrete bridge deck.
“Removing and replacing these joints will be a significant task for our contractor, and simply too much work to complete with weekend closures,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “There’s no getting around the fact that we are going to see traffic backups. But, we can’t wait any longer to replace these expansion joints, and risk that they will fail.”
I-90 lane closure details
At 10 p.m. on Friday, July 18 contractor crews closed all but lane of westbound I-90 just before Bellevue Way Southeast to replace the two expansion joints on the East Channel Bridge. The work will be split into two stages over the course of the seven-day lane closure.
WSDOT has created animated traffic maps to illustrate the lane closures and how traffic will flow during the work.
The expansion joint over the bicycle/pedestrian path on I-90 will also be replaced. The path will remain open during the day. However, pedestrians and cyclists may experience delays of up to five minutes nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
All I-90 lanes and ramps are scheduled to reopen by 5 a.m. Friday, July 25. However, WSDOT is offering a financial incentive to Mowat Construction to reopen all lanes early. Mowat can receive $50,000 per day up to $100,000 for early completion.
What can drivers do?
WSDOT needs drivers’ help to keep traffic moving during this closure.
“This is going to affect a lot of people, and we’re asking for drivers to start planning now to avoid big backups in July,” said WSDOT assistant regional administrator of traffic operations Mark Leth. “This is not just an eastside driver’s problem. This closure will affect the many Seattle-area highways.”
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.