BELLEVUE, Wash. -
- Expansion joints will be replaced during closure
- All but one lane will be closed for until 5 a.m. Friday, July 25
- Closure is between Bellevue and Mercer Island
Bad expansion joints are the reason for a major weeklong project that has closed all but one lane of westbound Interstate 90 into Seattle.
The closure is expected to affect even those who commute to Seattle without using I-90.
Westbound I-90 will be reduced to one through lane near Bellevue Way until 5 a.m. Friday, July 25.
The route between Bellevue and Mercer Island is traveled by 42,000 drivers a day.
The Washington Department of Transportation is asking for the public’s patience as the lane closures will increase traffic on many of the Eastside’s key commuter routes including Interstate 405 and State Route 520.
WSDOT is urging drivers to make alternate plans such as carpooling, vanpooling, telecommuting, using an alternate route, adjusting their work schedule or even taking vacation time. The department said they'll need 60 percent of drivers who use the route to make other plans.
"Let's be really clear here. There is no good time to close lanes on a high-speed road like I-90,” said Bart Treece with WSDOT communications.
Traffic engineers estimate the best times to travel will be before 6 a.m., between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and after 7 p.m.
"You're going to see back-ups region-wide. You're going to see traffic on I-5, traffic on 520, 405,” said Treece.
The Transportation Department has been telling the public about the project since May.
Meanwhile, KIRO 7 got an up-close look at the replacement parts.
WSDOT showed off the new 29-ton replacement joints, saying the two old joints embedded in the westbound lanes of the bridge have to be replaced for safety reasons.
They’ve been repaired in the past, but now WSDOT said it’s time for them to come out.
The joints allow the bridge to slightly expand in multiple directions. Without the giant pieces of steel, the bridge could crack.
“The bridge could crack, the concrete could crack -- you have to allow for that movement because a bridge the size of this one, between the high and low temperatures, could move as much as 18 inches," said Amir Rasaie with WSDOT. "We are basically taking the bridge partially apart and putting it back together."
The joints are 84 feet across.
The bike lanes on either side of westbound I-90 will get new joints a well, but they are much shorter and won't cause nearly the delays for pedestrians and cyclists that WSDOT said it’s expecting for cars.
The shutdown is the largest for the department in recent years.