WSDOT changing construction timing to ease congestion

Summer road work causing long delays on Highway 2

Kelly Sullivan

Commuters on U.S. Highway 2 have spent hours sitting in traffic this summer due to summer construction.

Within the past few weeks, drivers have experienced up to two-hour wait times between Gold Bar and Skykomish. However, the backups are expected to drop significantly.

The Washington State Department of Transportation has changed work hours, so closures will occur during the day and night. The split is expected to cut delays down to 20-30 minutes.

Last week construction crews were rescheduled to tackle only one of the three sections of the highway at a time this summer, according to a WSDOT news release. Previously, two sections had been worked on at once, which likely contributed to the delays.

Work will only be done in two sections simultaneously if they are in a shorter work zone. Crews on duty overnight will be tasked with the longest of the three sections, according to the release.

The roadway will be down to a single lane 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from Gold Bar to Skykomish Junction, and Eagle Falls to east of Baring. Closures from Money Creek campground to Tye Creek take place 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

About 6,600 people travel the corridor daily, with 6 percent of that being truck traffic, according to the WSDOT. The $4.4 million paving project that began in July covers nearly 17 miles. One eight-mile section near Skykomish is receiving a coat of fresh asphalt, while the other two near Gold Bar are being chip sealed.

WSDOT reports the targeted areas have not been repaved in about two decades. The signs of age are there, and creating unsafe conditions for drivers, such as water freezing in pools on the roadway.

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

The improvements are expected to increase safety, passenger protection from uneven terrain and the life of the highway. It will also decrease the likelihood for emergency closures or more expensive repairs, according to the WSDOT.

The work was advertised for competitive bidding in April, and Moses Lake-based Central Washington Ashpalt, Inc. was announced as the winner in May.

Drivers are at risk of running into other delays between Sultan and Leavenworth this summer, in addition to those between Gold Bar and Skykomish.

Issaquah-based construction company Lakeside Industries on April 24 started work on resurfacing and pedestrian crossing upgrades between Mile Post 21 west of Fern Bluff Road in Sultan and 10th Street in Gold Bar on U.S. Highway 2. The nearly $4 million project should finish up in October.

The two-lane, eight-mile stretch has been reduced to one lane between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays since work began in May. About 18,000 vehicles, with about 12 percent being truck traffic, travel that section of the corridor every day.

A more than $17 million resurfacing project also began on the other side of Steven’s Pass last month. Work from the Wenatchee River Bridge and Leavenworth is expected to end by late August. Roughly 20-minute delays are advertised for that section between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

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 varies 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 likely conditions.

The construction work within that stretch is expected to finish up this fall.



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