Seasoned travelers in Central Washington know all too well that summertime means construction season, and this year is going to be a doozy in Upper County.
The Washington State Department of Transportation recently released its summer construction plans for the region, and Interstate 90 will see a slew of projects between the Ellensburg and Snoqualmie Pass. The majority of the work will involve replacing bridge decking along a 50-mile stretch of the interstate, which will result in lane closures and potential delays during both daytime and nighttime hours.
The bridge work will begin at the Yakima River crossing at milepost 71, with both directions being affected in that location. Moving east, the bridge over the road to South Cle Elum will also be impacted by construction, as will the bridge over Peoh Road and the crossing over Oakes Avenue in Cle Elum. As drivers near Ellensburg, bridges over the Highline Canal, Dry Creek, and Umptanum Road will also be affected, with the final project in the series being located at the Renslow Trestle east of Ellensburg.
According to WSDOT Public Information Officer Summer Derrey, the project that will most likely have the largest impact on drivers will be located on a stretch of interstate between Ellensburg and Cle Elum. At that project site, workers will be replacing 200 concrete panels between mileposts 84 and 102. Although the work on that project will be completed at night, lane closures will be in effect during daytime hours to allow the concrete panels time to cure.
“Drivers won’t see activity during the day, but they will see and experience lane closures because of that,” Derrey said.
Although delays are possible at the other project sites, most will come from reduced speeds within the construction zones compounded by high recreational traffic, especially on summer weekends. As drivers approach Snoqualmie Pass on westbound Interstate 90, they will also notice work being done as part of the third phase of the state’s project to widen the interstate. During this year’s construction season, Derrey said drivers can expect lane diversions at that site, as well as nighttime closures for rock blasting.
“We certainly have a very robust construction season on I-90 this summer,” Derrey said of the department’s plans. “Last year we took a bit of a break from a lot of the construction, but we have a lot of work to get done.”
Derrey said the timing of the work is mainly based on program management and biennial funding, saying that the work being done this summer is essential to maintain improvements along the interstate. Although the curing process requires lanes to be closed during the day, she said crew shifts are designed to not occur during heavy weekend traffic times.
Although the western half of the county will be heavily impacted this summer, drivers will at least get a breath of fresh air once they clear the Renslow Trestle, as Derrey said work planned on a bridge deck replacement at the Vantage crossing is not slated to begin until next spring. Interstate 82 is also in the clear, as she said no major projects are planned for that stretch.
“There might be routine maintenance on those routes, but no planned projects,” she said. “Next year, Vantage will have a very large impact on drivers. We have quite a bit of work to do as we replace the bridge deck right there. Crews are still working out the scheduling and lane configuration, but ultimately we want travelers and recreationalists to prepare for potential multiple-hour delays near the Vantage Bridge next year, and potentially plan alternate routes as well.”
Focusing on the summer ahead, Derrey said the best two things drivers can do is give themselves ample time during their travels, and to be especially mindful while they drive through construction zones.
“We want to make sure both drivers and our construction crews get home safe to their families at the end of the day,” she said.