More freeway closures coming to Salmon Creek

Work affects southbound I-205

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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Construction work in the Salmon Creek area will bring another round of freeway closures starting Sunday night, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

But if this month's Carmageddon-That-Wasn't offered any indication, it should again be smooth sailing.

The drill may sound familiar: Crews will be hoisting a dozen huge concrete girders over the freeway, setting the backbone of a new bridge carrying Northeast 139th Street over Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. WSDOT will divert all traffic away from the action with safety in mind.

This time around, the work will affect only the southbound side of I-205, closing all lanes. And the closures will take place at night, beginning at 10 p.m. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, lasting until 5 the following mornings.

All southbound traffic will be sent to I-5 during those three nights, according to WSDOT. Local traffic and drivers heading to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center should exit I-5 at Northeast 179th Street (Exit 9) and follow a marked detour. Southbound freeway traffic won't be able to exit at Northeast 134th Street during the closure.

Legacy spokesman Brian Willoughby noted shift changes at the hospital generally won't happen during the planned closures. And any delay for emergency vehicles arriving from the north should be minimal, he said.

"I don't think this is going to have a really big impact," Willoughby said.

The work is part of the Salmon Creek Interchange Project, a $133 million effort to remake the northern convergence of I-5 and I-205. The end result will add a new interchange and bridge at 139th Street, relieving a chronically congested 134th Street corridor.

Earlier this month, girder setting at 139th Street prompted a much more disruptive closure affecting both directions of I-5. But a planned 54-hour closure ended 29 hours early as lead contractor Max J. Kuney got the job done much faster than expected. Even though the freeway was closed for an entire Saturday, congestion wasn't much worse than a typical weekday.

WSDOT spokeswoman Heidi Sause credited Clark County drivers for staying informed -- and staying home.

"That closure could have, and probably should have, gridlocked the entire area. But it didn't," Sause said.

The upcoming work over I-205 won't present as many logistical challenges as the girder setting over I-5, Sause said. Three weeks ago, the elevation of the freeway forced crews to use three cranes to lift and hand off the girders before they could be set. And having both directions of the freeway run side by side required a complete shutdown to complete the work.

On I-205, there's much more distance between the northbound and southbound sides of the freeway in that area, so WSDOT will close only one direction at a time. And a relatively flat work site should make the job less complicated, Sause said.

"The physical setup for the girder setting over I-5 required a much more complicated installation process," she said.

Any chance of finishing early?

"It's always possible to wrap up early," Sause said, but drivers should be prepared for three nights of closures. "If we can complete the installation early, we'll shorten the impacts."

Additional work later this summer will close the northbound side of I-205, where crews will lower and realign the roadway to make room for the new bridge, Sause said. The removal of an existing ramp will cause additional traffic impacts, she added.

The entire Salmon Creek Interchange Project is expected to wrap up next year.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.