WSDOT urges drivers to plan ahead as upcoming construction projects will disrupt traffic

Drivers in the Puget Sound are inching closer to a season of traffic jams. Washington State Department of Transportation has several construction projects currently in the works or planned for summer. 

FOX 13 is following three projects that could see significant delays and disruptions on the roads.

"We want to stay ahead of any issues that could arise," said Tom Pearce, a WSDOT spokesperson. "Doing a lot of this work during planned closures is going to save people a lot of headaches."

While some construction projects are in the early stages, others have been ongoing for years. Officials said traffic disruptions will be inevitable for the foreseeable future.

"People really just need to plan ahead. They’re going to be able to get where they want to go. It’s just whether they take a bus, light rail, take their car, and it just takes longer," said Pearce. "We understand alternatives like the bus, light rail don’t work, but when people who have the option to use a bus or light rail choose it. That opens up a little bit more road space for those who don’t have an alternative."

I-5: Yesler Way to Northgate Vicinity – Pavement, Deck, Joints, and Drainage

All the traffic headaches of WSDOT’s "Revive I-5" projects are coming back to Seattle. By summer 2024, officials said drivers should expect significant disruptions on I-5 between Northgate Mall and Yesler Way.

"When we start work from Yesler to Northgate this summer, it will only be weeknights and weekends. We will not be getting to the major closures until the start of 2025," said Pearce.

Crews will be installing new concrete panels, pavement, and expansion joints. The project also includes deck repaving on the Lakeview Viaduct and Lake Washington Ship Canal Bridge. 

The roads on I-5 were built in the 1960s. Besides replacements and patchwork in some spots, most of the concrete is original and needs updating. WSDOT said the expansion joints on the interstate also need to be replaced to flex and bend with the weight of traffic and weather conditions.

Pearce said the project is scheduled to start in July, followed by long-term lane reductions in 2025. 

"Our long-term lane reductions mean that we’re going to close two lanes on one direction of I-5 for half a mile perhaps as far as three miles," said Pearce. "When we have I-5 reduced to two lanes in one direction, we’re going to keep the express lanes operating in that direction the entire time. For example, if we have southbound I-5 reduced to two lanes with two lanes under construction, express lanes will be southbound that entire time too. That will affect northbound traffic of course because we will not be able to switch the express lanes and have that available to northbound traffic during peak travel times."

WSDOT said this project is between $130 and $170 million. It’s expected to finish in 2027.

I-5: NB Marine View Drive to SR 529 – Corridor and Interchange Improvements

The population is Snohomish County has exploded, and is expected to gain another 200,000 people  in the next 11 years. Northbound alone, WSDOT said about 65,000 vehicles travel on I-5 between Everett and Marysville. There is constant congestion near the SR 528 interchange. Crews are working on construction right now to address the issue.

WSDOT is building a new roundabout at the I-5, SR 529 interchange. Crews are also adding new ramps northbound and southbound between I-5 and SR 529.

"That’s going to offer people a different choice for going in and out of Marysville. Currently, you pretty much go to 4th Street, and you have to get off there, and there’s a railroad crossing about 1,000 feet east of I-5. So, if a train is going through there everything gets clogged up," said Pearce.

The HOV lane from US 2 to SR 529 will be extended. Crews will also be upgrading the Snohomish River Bridge.

"We will reduce the southbound bridge to one lane in each direction. So, there will be only lane southbound, one lane northbound," explained Pearce. "You put that much traffic into one lane and we will see delays and how big the delays are really depends on what people choose to do."

The project is scheduled to finish in fall 2025, totaling $123 million. For now, drivers will have to endure the existing congestion, and brace for even more traffic jams when crews will need to temporarily close lanes.

"People really just need to plan ahead. They’re going to be able to get where they want to go. It’s just whether they taken a bus, light rail, take their car and it just takes longer," said Pearce.

SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program

SR 520 is one of the busiest highway corridors in the Puget Sound. WSDOT began working on the highway and its bridges in phases since 2011. Officials said reconstructing in phases helps minimize traffic congestion as much as possible.

"At the end of the day it’s going to be a great facility," said Steve Peer, WSDOT spokesperson. 

The project includes replacing vulnerable bridges that were built in the 1960s over Lake Washington, Union Bay, and Portage Bay. It will also feature a dedicated bus or carpool lane in each direction between Seattle and Bellevue. There will be three transit stations for local and regional bus routes.

Five landscaped freeway lids will be built over SR 520, with two in Seattle and three on the eastside.

"Building a lid over a highway is a tall order," said Peer. "But to get to the finish, we still need to close 520 across the lake probably three to five times between now and august. And then we’ll also probably close Montalke Blvd across 520 probably about the same amount of time— three to five times weekend closures, which are very impactful for drivers."

The project will also have unique features, including a 14-foot wide walking and cycling trail between Seattle and Bellevue. There will also be a bicycle-pedestrian "land bridge" over 520, and a 30-foot-wide bicycle and pedestrian crossing over I-5.

"Of that three acres, 60 percent of it will be green space, there will be lots of trails, and trees, and bus canopies and ways to get across 520 that people didn’t even imagine in the 60s. So, it will be a fantastic facility for folks for years to come," said Peer.

WSDOT said the project is expected to be completed in 2030 at a total cost of $4.9 billion.