Federal Way, I-5 nighttime closures continue

The first of three weekend closures to install huge steel bridge girders over Interstate 5 in Federal Way went off without a hitch, and the freeway is back open to traffic, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) officials announced Monday.

Crews working for WSDOT spent Friday and Saturday nights lifting the girders over southbound I-5 and onto columns that will eventually support two new flyover ramps. These ramps aim to eliminate the notorious weave as drivers jockey for position when traveling between I-5 and State Route 18.”Closing one direction of a freeway is never easy,” said Aleta Borschowa, WSDOT project engineer. “But it will be worth it when the work is done and drivers move much more smoothly through this busy interchange.”

The new flyover ramps — one connecting westbound SR 18 to southbound I-5 and the other connecting eastbound SR 18 to northbound I-5 — are expected to open this fall. They will replace a 50-year-old cloverleaf ramp that forces drivers to slow down and merge quickly, which can lead to sideswipe and rear-end collisions.

This weekend, Feb. 17 and 18, crews will shift their work to the other side of the freeway. Northbound I-5 will be completely closed Friday and Saturday nights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. while crews install two more sets of girders. Northbound traffic will be detoured onto eastbound SR 18 to Weyerhaeuser Way, then back to westbound SR 18 to join I-5.

The third and final closures will happen the following weekend. Southbound I-5 will be closed the night of Feb. 24 and northbound I-5 will be closed the night of Feb. 25. Drivers should continue to plan for delays of 30 minutes during the nighttime closures.

The I-5/SR 18 interchange has been identified as a chronic chokepoint for commuters and freight haulers who want to get through Federal Way or cross I-5 to get from one side of the city to the other.

This two-year, $112 million project was funded by a combination of state gas taxes and federal grants.

For more information and detour maps, visit the project Web site at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i5/sr18sr161ic .