The wait is over: At the end of this month, drivers will have their first chance to use the new freeway interchange at Northeast 139th Street in Salmon Creek.
The interchange and bridge will open on Aug. 27, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The milestone will effectively finish a project that started construction in August 2010. Preliminary planning and design stretches back as far as 1997, according to WSDOT.
"This is a lot of years in the making," said WSDOT spokeswoman Magan Reed.
The 139th Street interchange is the fourth and final stage of the $133 million Salmon Creek Interchange Project, an effort to remake the northern convergence of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205. Clark County oversaw the first two stages of the project, which built a new park-and-ride lot and made improvements to local streets.
WSDOT took on the heavy lifting for the final two stages, expanding I-5 and building a new bridge carrying 139th Street across the freeways. Crews also realigned a section of I-205 to make room for the 1,300-foot span.
The project aims to improve safety and relieve congestion, particularly on nearby Northeast 134th Street, which routinely backs up. Stacked-up traffic on the ramps connecting to the street sometimes reaches the freeway itself, Reed said. The new bridge at 139th Street connects another major east-west thoroughfare through the area.
Crews are still putting finishing touches on the project. Work during the next two weeks will include pedestrian improvements on the new bridge and a concrete barrier on I-5, Reed said, plus setting up signals and signs.
Crews will also work on landscaping, irrigation and other smaller details, she said.
The Salmon Creek project is one of the last major items in Clark County paid for by a pair of gas tax increases approved in 2003 and 2005.
The Aug. 27 ribbon-cutting for the project is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Once the speeches are over and the interchange is cleared, "it will be open in time for the afternoon commute," Reed said.