Olympia I-5 traffic jam never materializes

The mother of all traffic jams never materialized on Interstate 5 through Olympia over the weekend.

Much of the credit for this went to motorists heeding warnings about potential traffic tieups, which allowed road crews to complete preliminary work and reopen northbound Interstate 5 much earlier than expected, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The northbound I-5 lanes reopened at 4 a.m. Sunday, Transportation Department spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker said. It helped that drivers took alternate routes or deferred trips for another day, she said.

“We’re just amazed and very pleased with the significant reduction in traffic this weekend,” she said, adding that “none of the backups occurred.”

The road construction this past weekend and the weekend of Sept. 19 is focused on replacing a bridge expansion joint.

Over a typical weekend, 276,000 vehicles use that stretch of the freeway, state Department of Transportation data show.

In addition to reopening northbound I-5 Sunday morning, crews also reopened all lanes of the southbound U.S. Highway 101 onramp to northbound I-5 and the Deschutes Parkway southwest onramp to northbound I-5, according to a WSDOT news release.

Work on the southbound I-5 lanes will continue until 5 a.m. Monday. Southbound I-5 will be restricted to one lane during night hours and to two lanes between 8 a.m.-10 p.m. The Henderson Boulevard-14th Avenue southeast onramp to southbound I-5 also will remain closed until Monday morning, according to the news release.

Meanwhile, last week’s news and announcements about the impending construction led some to not only avoid the freeway but to find alternative forms of transportation.

That’s what the Whitehurst/Bicek family of Portland did, choosing to ride Amtrak to Lacey’s Centennial Station on Saturday and then drive north to the Seattle Mariners game. Mariners relief pitcher Fernando Rodney walked four Oakland A’s batters in the 10th inning and the M’s lost 3-2.

But that was fine with Autumn Whitehurst of Portland because she’s an A’s fan, she said.

On Sunday, Autumn; her grandmother Julia Bicek of Portland; and Autumn’s aunt, Audrey Whitehurst of Olympia; waited for the return train to Oregon.

Although Autumn and Julia probably didn’t need to ride the train, they still enjoyed their trip.

“The ride was amazing,” said Julia Bicek, praising the amount of leg room she had compared to that on a plane.

Still, there’s one more weekend of construction, with both day and night lane and ramp closures in both directions of I-5 this coming weekend.

Motorists are once again asked to avoid the area.

“We hope they (motorists) stick with us for one more weekend as we get through this,” Bingham Baker said.

In the event of rain, the work will be pushed back to the next weekend, according to the news release.