The second phase of a potential nightmare for drivers on Interstate 5 through Olympia is underway. Planners are hoping that this weekend is a repeat of the pleasant dream of last weekend.
Drivers are asked to avoid Interstate 5 and the intersection with U.S. Highway 101 in Olympia this weekend as crews finish concrete work on the second half of an aging expansion joint spanning the road. Lanes and ramps will be closed. Under usual volumes of traffic, backups of up to 14 miles could be expected, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Data collected Sept. 12-14 showed traffic volumes fell off on northbound and southbound I-5, with the most significant reduction — 51 percent — Saturday afternoon. On a typical weekend, 276,000 vehicles use that stretch of freeway, according to WSDOT.
Lighter traffic allowed workers to finish earlier than scheduled, project engineer Ricky Bhalla said in a news release.
“Traffic was so light that we were able to start demolition work early,” Bhalla said.
“For this Saturday and Sunday, we found a way to keep all three northbound I-5 lanes open during the day,” he said, “but southbound I-5 will still be down to two lanes during the day, so the potential for long backups still exists.” Bhalla also said both directions of I-5 will be reduced to one lane during nighttime hours Friday through Sunday.
Here’s what to expect each day:
Friday, Sept. 19
Friday morning, drivers will encounter a 35 mph speed limit on northbound I-5 approaching the work zone. Although three northbound lanes will be open, they will be narrowed and realigned. The southbound U.S. 101 on-ramp to northbound I-5 will also be reduced to one lane until 5 a.m. Monday. Drivers will encounter no changes to southbound I-5 Friday morning.
• The Deschutes Parkway on-ramp to northbound I-5 will remain closed until 5 a.m. Monday.
At 10 p.m., northbound and southbound I-5 will again be reduced to one lane in each direction. At that time, crews will close two additional ramps:
• The Henderson Boulevard/14th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 will remain closed until 5 a.m. Monday.
• The southbound I-5 exit to U.S. 101 will route traffic through the Tumwater Boulevard interchange to the northbound I-5 exit to U.S. 101. This ramp will reopen by 7 a.m. Saturday.
Saturday and Sunday
Between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., southbound I-5 near Capitol Lake will be reduced to two lanes. Three lanes of northbound I-5 will be open, but the lanes will be narrowed and realigned, and a 35 mph speed limit will be in effect.
At 10 p.m. both nights, I-5 will be reduced to one lane in each direction. All lanes and ramps are scheduled to reopen to traffic by 5 a.m. Monday.
If you must travel through the area, planners advise going before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m.