Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Sept. 30, 2020

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Stretch of Interstate 5 in Clark County to temporarily close as summer road projects begin

Closure planned from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday to install sign bridge

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:

A roughly five-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Clark County is scheduled to close in both directions beginning 11 p.m. Friday while crews install an overhead sign bridge. The freeway is scheduled to reopen at 6 a.m. Saturday.

The freeway will be closed between the State Route 500 and Interstate 205 interchanges, using the other two freeways as a detour route, according to a press release from the Washington State Department of Transportation. All northbound traffic will be diverted to eastbound SR 500, and all southbound traffic will be diverted to southbound I-205.

The sign bridge is part of a new active traffic management system WSDOT is installing along southbound I-5 through the Vancouver area in an effort to ease congestion during the morning rush hour and increase traffic safety.

The system will include new traffic cameras and sensors to monitor traffic and weather and provide real-time feedback to WSDOT’s traffic management center.

It will also add a series of electronic signs including advisory speed signs for individual lanes and message boards to relay information to drivers about issues on the road ahead, including weather, congestion, accidents, construction activity and Interstate 5 Bridge lifts.

The project will add adaptive ramp meters to the southbound I-5 onramps at 78th Street, Main Street, SR 500, Fourth Plain Boulevard and Mill Plain Boulevard, and upgrade the meter at the downtown Vancouver onramp.

The new system will regulate the rate of vehicles entering the freeway to break up groups of cars and smooth the traffic flow, with the goal of decreasing the number of sideswipe and rear-end collisions that occur in the corridor, according to a report on the project’s webpage.

The $6.7 million project is being handled by contractor Mill Plain Electric. The full system is scheduled to be completed later this summer.

Other projects

The new system isn’t the only project aimed at easing the I-5 commute from Vancouver to Portland. Construction is underway on a project from C-Tran and WSDOT to add a bus-only lane on the left shoulder of I-5 southbound through Vancouver.

The $6 million project will narrow the traffic lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet and expand the left-side shoulder to 14 feet, making it wide enough for buses. The hybrid bus-shoulder lane will run from around 99th Street to the I-5 Bridge.

The lane will still be available as a regular shoulder for disabled vehicles and emergency services, but if the main freeway lanes drop below 35 miles per hour during morning congestion, buses will be allowed to hop into the shoulder lane and bypass the traffic jam.

Construction began in mid-June and is scheduled to cause periodic single-lane nighttime closures on weekends through the summer. The project is expected to wrap up and allow buses to start using the lane in September.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is also wrapping up work on a project to add new electronic signs at seven locations along I-5 between the I-5 Bridge and Portland. It’s the latest in a series of similar projects along Portland-area freeway corridors in recent years.

Similar to the active traffic management system in Vancouver, the $7.8 million Oregon project will add message signs and variable advisory speed signs for individual lanes, some of which will be mounted on new sign bridges. The project began work in November and is scheduled for completion in the fall.

I-5 Bridge closure

The new systems will be put to the test right away. The bus lane and traffic sign projects are all timed to wrap up just ahead of the start of a $13 million I-5 Bridge maintenance project, which is expected to snarl traffic on both sides of the river for up to nine days in September.

ODOT crews will replace a cracked trunnion at the top of the south tower of the northbound I-5 Bridge span. The trunnion is a critical part of the cable system that allows the bridge to be raised for river traffic.

The northbound bridge will be closed to all traffic for the duration of the project, which is scheduled to run from Sept. 12 through Sept. 20. All Interstate 5 traffic will be diverted to the southbound span during the closure.

The three-lane span will be reconfigured for two-way traffic with a reversible middle lane, allowing for two southbound lanes during the morning rush hour and two northbound lanes in the afternoon. Even so, the closure is expected to cause significant backups and exacerbate rush hour congestion.

ODOT and WSDOT have been urging commuters to plan ahead and either work from home during the project or change up their normal commuting schedules to avoid peak traffic hours.

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