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News / Clark County News

Roadway projects in Southwest Washington closer to finish line

WSDOT readies plans for the spring/summer construction season

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 13, 2024, 6:10am

With warm weather on the horizon, the Washington State Department of Transportation and its contractor crews are preparing to dive into road work.

As of now, many of the state projects’ start dates are still being determined, but here are some of the big ones.

Highway 14- Lieser Road Bridge

The bridge was damaged in July 2022 when an oversized truck hauling a wind turbine blade on eastbound state Highway 14 struck its underside. The impact exposed rebar and scattered concrete debris along the highway below, according to WSDOT.

Construction is underway and will wrap up this summer.

Highway 14 auxiliary lane

The $28 million project to add an exit-to-exit auxiliary lane to state Highway 14 between Southeast 164th Avenue and Interstate 205 will wrap up this summer.

In addition to final paving, next year’s work includes installing guardrails, final striping and installing permanent signs, like the electronic signs that will indicate when the part-time shoulder is open to traffic.

Interstate 5 Dike Access Road Bridge

This summer, WSDOT contractor crews will remove and replace the existing asphalt overlay along the southbound span of the I-5 Bridge over Dike Access Road, just north of Woodland in Cowlitz County. Crews will also remove and replace the expansion joints.

When construction starts, the three lanes will be reduced to two narrow lanes. Traffic will be shifted to about half of the bridge with the rest of it being used as a work zone. The two areas will be separated by a temporary barrier. It will be similar to the work on the North Fork Lewis River Bridge last summer.

Additionally, the speed limit will be reduced from 70 mph to 60 mph through the work zone and reduced to 45 mph along the bridge.

I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge

Perhaps the region’s most problematic highway bridge, the I-5 North Fork Lewis River Bridge, will go under the knife again this summer. WSDOT contractor crews will finish up work on the northbound span before starting work on the southbound one.

The bridge has experienced a litany of problems over the past few years, primarily due to the structure’s age and use. The bridge has been patched so many times 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.)

Worker safety

Even before a car crashed into and hospitalized six WSDOT workers who were attempting to fill potholes in January, local and state officials were raising awareness about a trend of more close calls and near-accidents between vehicles and people in work zones and more crashes in work zones.

In 2023, 16 Department of Transportation vehicles were struck in Southwest Washington, according to agency data, which was up from 14 in 2022 and eight in 2021. In 2020, 857 fatal crashes in work zones resulted in 774 deaths nationwide, WSDOT said, citing data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In Washington, drivers are required to move over when approaching work or emergency zones. If changing lanes is unsafe, drivers are required to slow down to 10 mph below the posted speed limit but no faster than 50 mph.

WSDOT officials urge travelers to slow down as they approach work zones, follow directional signs and expect delays.

For real-time travel information, go to wsdot.com/Travel/Real-time/Map/ online.

Community Funded Journalism logo

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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Columbian staff writer