That bumpy ride on southbound I-5 through Seattle will start to change May 7

There’s a rhythm to the drive on southbound Interstate 5. It comes from a series of unpleasant bumps on the section between I-90 and Spokane Street. The familiar cacophony reverberates as tires bump the original expansion joints along this stretch.

Last year, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) started with new concrete, grinding down the roadway and putting down fresh pavement. This spring and summer the crew is back for the joints.

This year WSDOT plans to break up the beat of the old joints and smooth your ride, starting the weekend of May 7-8. That’s when the agency will begin the first of many weekend-long lane reductions to replace 35 expansion joints on southbound I-5. Forget the summer of love, this will be the summer of lane closures.

It’s more than the noisy bumps

The expansion joints are road-worn and ready to retire. On April 1, one of the joints proved how deeply this work is needed by popping loose. It was just one day before our maintenance crews had planned to do some temporary repair work on that joint.

After that incident we met with contractors and decided to adjust our construction schedule and start with the joints in that area.

On April 1, an expansion joint broke on southbound I-5 near Spokane Street

Lane reductions start Friday night, May 6

Contractor CA Carey plans to start weekend-long lane reductions at 8 p.m. Friday, May 6, finishing by 5 a.m. Monday, May 9. All traffic will shift through the collector/distributor for the whole weekend. There are Mariners games that weekend, along with other events in downtown Seattle. And of course, it’s Mother’s Day weekend. Yes, this might affect some of your travel plans, but you can still get there if you allow extra time and use alternate transportation.

  • Take a Sound Transit bus or light rail.
  • Ride Metro Transit
  • Carpool – it’s always more fun to go with others
  • If you can, travel early (before 8 a.m.) or late (after 8 p.m.)
  • If you can put off the trip, consider rescheduling it.

A map that shows traffic changes on southbound I-5 between I-90 and Spokane Street

What’s next?

This is the first of about 16 weekends of lane reductions that will continue through the summer. WSDOT will keep I-5 open for people and businesses, but needs to reduce the number of lanes to do this. The first weekend will be Friday night, May 6, and will run through early Monday, May 9. Crews plan to work every weekend except:

  • Memorial Day, May 28-30
  • University of Washington commencement, June 11-12
  • Independence Day, July 2-4
  • Labor Day, Sept. 3-5

A welder places anchors for anew expansion joint

The work is weather dependent, so rain could mean delays or postponed weekends. Keep an eye on our social channels like Twitter and our travel information for the latest on closures.

Hopefully the work this summer will mean we roll to an easy rhythm by fall. Then we can enjoy the bumps from our car stereo instead of the roadway.

— By Amy Moreno, Washington State Department of Transportation

  1. Great article! I was just on that section of road the other day and was wondering why it seems to be the only stretch with rhythm. Sometimes it ties in with what is playing on the radio if my speed is just right.

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