Revive I-5 project means big delays - and we're just getting started

SEATTLE - The first weekend of the Revive I-5 project is wrapping up. WSDOT crews are working on a 13 mile stretch of Northbound Interstate 5 to repair and replace old parts of the freeway.

Contractor crews will replace 37 expansion joints and large sections of concrete pavement on nearly 13 miles of northbound I-5 from Martin Luther King Junior Way South/State Route 900 to Northeast Ravenna Boulevard through Seattle. The project also includes roadway grinding, repaving, pedestrian ramp upgrades and safety barrier improvements.

I-5 was built in the 1960s and this weekend, for the first time in 50 years, the freeway is getting a facelift.

WSDOT crews replaced six of the 37 expansion joints so far which they say takes a lot of time to chip the old joints and put in new ones.

“You have to pull out the old expansion joint, put the new one in and each one of those expansion joints are fabricated for this particular section of roadway, then you have to put the concrete in and that has to cure or dry,” said Lisa Van Cise with WSDOT.

Van Cise says their work is weather dependent and they need the long weekend stretch to make sure the concrete dries.

During the work, WSDOT diverted northbound traffic onto the express lanes which had a ripple effect causing substantial delays on southbound I5, 405, 167 and city side streets.

“We generally see 7,000 to 8,000 vehicles per hour on this section of northbound I-5, so take away three of those lanes, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out there are going to be huge amounts of slowdown and back-ups,” said Van Cise.

The traffic tie-ups were just a taste of the closures still to come.

“Then we have the biggies, May 18-21, and the first weekend of June, a full northbound I-5 closure at Spokane street,” said Van Cise.

She added that the six weekends slated for this project is a guideline, if weather delays the work, they’ll add on more weekends.

"We also have a project coming up later this summer on southbound I-5,” said Van Cise.

She added the traffic impact from the southbound project won’t be as bad as this one, but if you’re driving this spring and summer on weekends, get ready to spend more time in your car.

WSDOT advises drivers to travel before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. on weekends when traffic is much lighter.

They also have projects planned in Skagit and Snohomish counties to work on sections of I-5 in those counties.