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Get ready for three years of I-5 closures

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After 50 years, the freeway is finally getting repaved

Courtesy of WSDOT

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has good news and bad news. The good news is that after more than 50 years and more than doubling its expected lifespan, a stretch of northbound Interstate 5 is finally getting repaved.

The bad news is that this long-overdue maintenance—the stretch of the interstate first opened in 1965—means nearly three years of sporadic night and weekend closures.

In a blog post, WSDOT spokesperson Justin Fujioka says it’s a marvel the paving lasted this long: “I'm not sure anyone imagined that the concrete pavement would survive largely untouched for more than 50 years,” he wrote. “The freeway is outliving its expectations, possibly by decades.

WSDOT said to expect closures during up to 26 weekends, especially in the next two or three summers—including reducing I-5 to two lanes during 10 weekends during the first phase.

Through late 2019, WSDOT crews will be repaving the interstate between Kent and Ravenna—one of the most heavily-trafficked areas.

While it’s not ideal to lose any lanes on a busy freeway, the work had to happen eventually, WSDOT said.

Fujioka compared it to painting your house: “You can repaint sections of your house as needed, but one day you’ll need to repaint the whole thing.”

Repaving started Monday on the first segment, from South 260th Street to the Duwamish River, and will continue through late 2018. WSDOT will replace 440 broken concrete panels and repave four miles of freeway.

The rest, from Martin Luther King, Jr. Way through Ravenna Boulevard, will start later this year. Among other things, WSDOT needs to replace “hundreds” of broken concrete panels—including all non-bridge panels between the West Seattle Bridge and the express lanes—and repave 24 on- and offramps.

Throughout the process, WSDOT also has to repair several bridges.

All the work should be done in late 2019, but the schedule isn’t entirely clear. Crews have to work around things like weather and special events.

“We want to thank commuters in advance for adjusting around what we know will be some rough commutes,” said Fujioka. “Traffic volumes are not at 1960s levels, along with just about the cost of everything nowadays.”