Highway roadwork nears completion

U.S. 2 segments receive first significant rehab in decades

Kelly Sullivan

After unpredictable delays, millions of dollars spent and about 25 miles of roadway paved, two major projects on U.S. Highway 2 are about to wrap up.

Crews are expected to complete all work between Sultan and Skykomish by the end of the week, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. The finishing touches are just about on schedule.

“That is the goal — as long as weather cooperates,” said WSDOT project spokesperson Marqise Allen.

It has been nearly two decades since the targeted sections saw any significant rehabilitation. WSDOT reports the signs of age created unsafe conditions for drivers, such as pools of water freezing on the roadway.

“Cracks, ruts and potholes are littered throughout this stretch of highway,” according to the agency.

The improvements made this summer were intended to increase safety, improve passenger protection from uneven terrain and lengthen the life of the highway. They will also decrease the likelihood for emergency closures or more expensive repairs.

Issaquah-based construction company Lakeside Industries started resurfacing and pedestrian crossing upgrades between mile 21 west of Fern Bluff Road in Sultan and 10th Street in Gold Bar on U.S. Highway 2 on April 24.

The work was advertised for competitive bidding in January, and the contract was awarded in March. The $4 million project was planned to be completed by October.

About 18,000 vehicles travel that stretch of roadway every day. Trucks account for about 12.5 percent of that traffic.

Moses Lake-based Central Washington Asphalt, Inc., began work on its section of the highway in July.

Companies were first allowed to bid for the contract in April, and the winner was selected in May. The $4.4 million paving project covered nearly 17 miles.

Single lane closures took place between Gold Bar and Skykomish Junction, Eagle Falls to east of Baring, as well as Money Creek campground and Tye Creek. The eight-mile section near Skykomish received a coat of fresh asphalt, while the other two near Gold Bar were chip sealed.

About 6,600 people travel the corridor daily, with 6 percent of that being truck traffic.

U.S. Highway 2 runs from its west end in Everett to its east end in Newport, at the Idaho border, according to the WSDOT US 2 Route development plan. The state identified four distinct sections of roadway in the 2007 study. Characteristics and the length of each vary per region.

Between Gold Bar and Skykomish, sharp curves and narrow shoulders are common, according to the study. Being at a higher elevation creates more potential risks during the winter, when rain, snow and ice are common.

Early on it was apparent the way work was being carried out east of Gold Bar was causing major delays. Drivers were stuck in traffic for up to two hours at a time. Frustrations were fueled.

WDSOT decided to change work hours, so lane closures would occur during the day and night. Construction crews were rescheduled to tackle only one of three highway sections at a time this summer. Previously, two sections had been worked on at once, which likely contributed to the long waits.

The split ended up cutting delays down to 20-30 minutes, Allen said. He said the agency had not expected the backups. The approach was adjusted once staff saw how the work was affecting traffic, he said.

“We want to thank the drivers for their patience this summer,” he said.

Allen said both construction companies completed what they were contracted to. No more paving is planned for next summer between Sultan and Skykomish on the highway, he said.

Allen said WSDOT does have one project planned for next summer, but no paving will be involved. Work will be done on the South Fork Skykomish Bridge to repair scouring on the structure. He said a construction date has not been set yet.

Photo courtesy of WSDOT: Crews are expected to finish both paving projects between Sultan and Skykomish by the end of this week.


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