ODOT asks residents to be creative in preparing for traffic congestion in August and September
VANCOUVER — In a little over a month, the full closure of the northbound span of the Interstate 5 Bridge will begin, but smaller closures are expected to start in August.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has released an updated schedule of what will close and in some cases, when. The largest closure remains the trunnion replacement, which will last from Sept. 12-20. After the replacement, from Sept. 21-27, a single-lane closure will exist as crews remove work equipment.
During that time the southbound lanes will stay open, with two heading south and one north in the morning, and the reverse in the evening to accommodate for the more than 70,000 people who pay Oregon income tax, and are expected to commute there.
“The most important thing people can do is plan ahead,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton. “Anytime you take a part of the interstate highway system out of circulation, you’re going to be creating some significant problems on the whole transportation system. It’s critical that people are aware of what’s coming, and can make plans for how to avoid the worst of the congestion.”
The main delays specific to this coming month are lane closures, ramp closures and bridge lifts. Many of the lane closures will be occurring at night, as will the ramp closures. Ramps expected to be affected are the SR-14 and Washington Street on-ramp for I-5 south, the Marine Drive on-ramp for I-5 north, the Hayden Island on-ramp for I-5 north, and the North Victory on-ramp for I-5 north.
Bridge lifts will occur in August on I-5 northbound prior to construction for 30 minutes at a time. The reason for much of the August delays centers on staging of equipment, such as the large barge and tower cranes.
Hamilton explained that many of the questions ODOT has recently received about the closure center around why it was not moved up; especially with the reduced traffic due to COVID-19.
“There’s a couple of good reasons for that. For one thing, this required a lot of manufacturing of custom made parts,” he said. “You can’t buy hundred year old parts for a 1917 bridge off the shelf. So it required special production of certain materials. They just arrived out here. One more thing is that, in September, the river levels are at a very low level. More traffic can pass under the bridge than if the water levels were high.”
Hamilton also explained that for the better part of the last two years, ODOT has been working with shipping companies that operate on the river and often require bridge lifts. To reschedule the repairs, and restrict river traffic sooner, would disrupt all the planning with those companies, he said.
In an effort to reduce congestion in August and especially in September and October, ODOT is recommending all commuters delay or shift as many trips as possible, while also trying to carpool or use mass transit.
For additional questions, to sign up for project updates and to learn more about travel strategies visit ODOT’s bridge site, www.interstatebridge.org. You can also call (503) 731-8276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.