Repaving work on I-5 through Vancouver begins tonight

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

Updated: July 5, 2011, 7:17 PM

 

Expect nightly delays on Interstate 5 through Vancouver as crews this week began repaving a 2.35-mile stretch of the freeway.

First up: prep work on two lanes of the northbound side, leaving only one lane open near the Interstate Bridge from Tuesday night into this morning.

The $4.4 million project, expected to finish this fall, had been planned for 2012. But an increasing number of cracks and ruts prompted officials to move the work up to this summer, according to Abbi Russell, a Washington State Department of Transportation spokesperson.

“It was deteriorating faster than we expected,” Russell said.

The bulk of the work will happen from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night. After only northbound lane closures Tuesday night, work will impact both directions tonight, shift to the southbound side Thursday, then both sides of the freeway again on Friday night.

Russell said lane closures could stretch to 7 a.m. Saturday morning, possibly snarling morning traffic.

Paving will extend to ramps connecting to the freeway as crews work through the project in the coming months. That means ramp closures, including consecutive exits at times, Russell said. Planners hope to avoid that when possible, allowing drivers to maneuver around closed ramps, she said.

“Luckily, in that area, there are quite a few interchanges, so it makes it a little bit easier,” Russell said.

The project will eventually repave all lanes of I-5 between the Columbia River and East 39th Street. C-Tran bus service in the area should be largely unaffected ­— most routes don’t use the freeway, and the project’s late hours avoid the heaviest traffic, said C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson. At worst, buses could run into “residual” slowing from backups near the freeway, he said.

“We don’t expect there to be any significant delays,” Patterson said.

The project marks something of an experiment for the state Department of Transportation, which will use a “warm-mix” asphalt for the first time on the interstate, Russell said. Typically, crews use either a cold mix for maintenance or a hot mix for paving, she said.

Warm-mix asphalt is heated 35 to 100 degrees cooler than its hot counterpart, emitting less vapor and requiring less energy to prepare. Russell called it “a greener approach to paving.” It also cools faster and gets traffic back on the road sooner, she said.

The new mix appears to be just as durable as the traditional options, Russell said. Whether it lasts as long remains to be seen — others typically get 10 to 15 years of use, she said.

The paving project is part of a busy summer construction season in Southwest Washington. Close to two dozen projects are on the agenda, including the third phase of the $133 million Salmon Creek Interchange Project near the northern convergence of I-5 and Interstate 205. This summer’s work will add lanes to both freeways in the area.

“This is the largest construction season in Southwest Washington that we’ve ever had,” Russell said.

Weekly construction updates for Southwest Washington are available at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/regions/southwest/construction. Motorists can also subscribe to daily updates online or at 800-725-9669.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541 or eric.florip@columbian.com.