When the Washington State Department of Transportation began repaving a major thoroughfare between Vancouver and Battle Ground this week, it wasn’t as simple as rolling out the asphalt on a day’s notice.
Repaving a long stretch of state Highway 503 requires a lot of planning and coordination, said WSDOT area engineer Leon Winger. That’s because paving a rural highway is actually more complex than paving, say, Interstate 5, he said.
“Here you’re balancing traffic with residences and businesses,” Winger said. “It just adds an extra layer of complication.”
WSDOT reached out to people along the corridor with fliers and other tools in the lead-up to the project, agency spokeswoman Tamara Hellman said. There are also intersections, driveways and signals to consider. The $5.8 million project is one of several around the region that will impact drivers during the coming weeks and months.
On Highway 503, crews are repaving eight miles of the roadway between Northeast Fourth Plain Boulevard and state Highway 502. That stretch of the highway was last paved in 2002, according to WSDOT, putting it in the typical 12-to-15-year window for a face-lift. This year’s work will cause lane closures and other impacts until its planned completion this fall.
Another paving project will prompt a major highway closure in the Columbia River Gorge this week. While crews repave a 4-mile stretch of state Highway 14 west of White Salmon, WSDOT will close both directions of the highway from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. both Thursday and Friday nights. The closures will allow workers to grind and repave the highway inside five narrow tunnels, according to WSDOT. The work is part of a larger $5.2 million effort that will repave some 40 miles of Highway 14 between Washougal and Bingen by September.
Drivers will have to use Interstate 84 in Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods or the Hood River Bridge to get around the closure. WSDOT says it will pay tolls on both spans for drivers using the detour.
WSDOT is also repaving a stretch of state Highway 501 in Ridgefield this year, a $1.1 million project scheduled to wrap up this fall. The agency will also tackle smaller maintenance work across the region this summer as it does every year, Hellman said.
City, county projects
For the city of Vancouver, a busy slate of summer paving projects is already well underway. Among the segments still unfinished are a stretch of Andresen Road between Northeast 18th and 40th streets — scheduled for completion this week — and a section of East Evergreen Boulevard between Grand Boulevard and South Blandford Drive that will start work next month.
The city is spending about $7 million on its pavement management program this year, said spokeswoman Loretta Callahan. That includes more than just new asphalt. Crews also complete less intensive microsurfacing and sealing projects that are intended to extend the life of a roadway without completely tearing it up.
One of the city’s goals, Callahan said, is “to keep good streets in good condition.” That helps save money in the long run, she added.
“When streets fail, they start to fail quickly, and the cost rises rapidly,” Callahan said.
The city uses ratings and other factors to decide which streets to improve from year to year, said operations superintendent Ryan Miles. On Northwest Fruit Valley Road, for example, a section of roadway scored as low as 24 on a zero-to-100 scale, Miles said. Others were in the 40s and 50s. A segment of Fruit Valley Road was repaved earlier this year.
Clark County planned several paving projects of its own this year, including a segment of Northeast 134th Street in Salmon Creek. The county, like other jurisdictions, uses varying degrees of treatment depending the condition of a given roadway.
Miles likened the different options to home repair. Microsurfacing, he said, is like painting your house. Paving is like installing new siding. And reconstruction of a road is like “rebuilding from the studs,” he added.
“We try to catch those before they’re too far gone,” Miles said.