Sunday, August 7, 2022
Aug. 7, 2022

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Highway 500 to close this weekend for reconfiguration

Motorists should plan to use alternate routes across Vancouver

By , Columbian staff writer

Typically use Highway 500 to get across town? You should make different plans for this weekend.

Crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation plan to remove the stop lights at the intersections of Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road and replace them with right-in/right-out interchanges.

Starting Monday morning, motorists will no longer have to stop at a red light on Highway 500, but they will no longer be able to turn left either.

Starting at 11 p.m. Friday, construction crews will close the highway in either direction between St. Johns Boulevard and Northeast Andresen Road. Drivers are likely to see construction crews setting up in the area prior to closure.

The plan is to have the highway completely reconfigured and reopened by 4 a.m. Monday.

That’s the plan, anyway.

“It is the end of October in the Northwest,” said WSDOT spokeswoman Tamara Greenwell. “We have a good weather window Friday and most of the day Saturday, but we need absolutely dry weather for the paint to dry.”

The paint is a key element of this project because, in addition to building traffic barriers, crews will restripe the highway and the side streets to redirect traffic onto and off the highway.

If rain does come, WSDOT has a “massive” pavement drying machine, Greenwell said. But that only works up to a point.

“If weather changes substantially, we’ll have to reassess it,” she added.

If any paving is done, it’ll be to patch spots here and there.

Cascade Bridge, which won the contract to do the work, didn’t have to expand or modify the highway shoulders because they were thick enough to support vehicle traffic.

The total project is expected to cost almost $1 million.

Drivers should also expect unusually high traffic volumes on neighboring streets, such as Fourth Plain Boulevard or Northeast 44th and Northeast 40th streets, over the weekend.

WSDOT argues that the reconfiguration will reduce collisions in a crash-prone area by as much as 70 percent.

Currently, about 60,000 vehicles per day travel Highway 500, with close to one crash every three days occurring in the 2-mile area encompassing the intersections.

The changes to the highway also means the crosswalk at Northeast 54th and Stapleton will be removed. WSDOT says the removed crossing is only temporary. They plan to have funding in three to five years to build a pedestrian under- or overpass.

In the meantime, WSDOT has partnered with C-Tran to provide free shuttle service around the intersection. Riders will have to make reservations. On the hour, a shuttle will pick them up from a spot just north of Highway 500 on 54th and take them to a station on Stapleton.

Then, at 10 minutes after the hour, it’ll take passengers from Stapleton to 54th.

Some residents north of the project area have decried the reconfiguration plan, worrying that the funding for the new pedestrian crossing might never come.

Columbian staff writer

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