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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Repair of I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge continues into October causing traffic delays

North lanes down to two in work area as crews work to make aging span safer

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Work on the North Fork Lewis River Bridge near Woodland is part of a $17.4 million, two-summer project to improve the safety and driveability of the bridge. Work on the southbound span should start next summer.
Work on the North Fork Lewis River Bridge near Woodland is part of a $17.4 million, two-summer project to improve the safety and driveability of the bridge. Work on the southbound span should start next summer. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Interstate 5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge, perhaps the region’s most problematic highway bridge, is undergoing two months of bridge deck repairs.

To create a safe work zone, traffic has been reduced to two narrow lanes around the clock as well as reduced speed limits, to 60 miles per hour through the work zone and 45 miles per hour along the bridge.

Delays and backups will vary depending on the time and day of the week, but at peak times delays could exceed 50 minutes and cause backups of 7 miles or more, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. Travelers can receive real-time information at: https://wsdot.com/Travel/Real-time/Map/ .

The bridge has experienced a litany of problems over the past year, primarily due to the structure’s age and use. In fact, the bridge has been patched so many times that there is little surface left that is not patchwork. The southbound span was built in 1940 and the northbound span was built in 1968. About 41,000 vehicles drive over it daily (for reference, about 130,000 people drive over the Interstate 5 Bridge and 20,000 drive over the Lewis and Clark Bridge between Longview and Rainier, Ore.).

By mid- to late October, the Washington State Department of Transportation contractor will have repaired the deck, applied a polyester concrete overlay, modified expansion joints and installed new bridge joint seals. Once the repairs are complete, a weight restriction will be lifted and freight truck drivers will no longer be required to move to the center lane when crossing the bridge.

The deck repairs are part of a $17.4 million, two-summer project to improve the safety and driveability of the bridge. Work on the southbound span should start next summer.

The bridge joins a group of other bridges in Southwest Washington that require replacement or work. There are replacement efforts for the Interstate 5 Bridge, the Hood River-White Salmon Bridge and the I-5 East Fork Lewis River Bridge (located near La Center, south of the I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge).

Additionally, the Bridge of the Gods near Stevenson requires seismic upgrades and the Lewis and Clark Bridge was closed to non-emergency vehicle traffic for a few days in July to replace two expansion joints and a fractured floor beam.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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