No barrel of laughs on I-5


Staff writer

The line of orange barrels is long, but the work is almost done.

Another lane of Interstate 5 approaching South 320th Street in Federal Way will be closed around the clock for about three weeks as road crews work on extending the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and resurfacing three bridge decks.

Though it might be inconvenient for commuters, the state Department of Transportation said the project is a year ahead of schedule and will be finished this fall.

The project is extending another HOV lane from Tukwila to the Pierce County line to increase capacity and speed up traffic. The local segment stretches from State Route 516 to South 320th.

Since work crews are in the area, theyŽ’re resurfacing I-5Ž’s 30-year-old bridges over South 260th Street, South 288th Street and Military Road South.

Crews stripped the top layer of asphalt off the bridges and scarred the second layer to remove oil and debris, engineering manager Ray Arnold said. In perhaps the most harrowing part of the resurfacing job, they then dragged chain over the road surface on their hands and knees ŽÑ with traffic zooming by less than five feet away.

As chain is dragged over healthy concrete, it makes a ding-a-ling-a-ling sound, Arnold said. On sick concrete, the chain clacks. When workers heard a clack, they marked the spot with neon paint. Crews later went through and repaired and refilled the sick sections.

Starting last Friday night, they began resurfacing the bridge deck with a dense, durable, modified asphalt that is expected to last up to 25 years.

The freeway is expected to reopen Sept. 26, and the new HOV lane should carry up to 2,000 vehicles an hour, according to the Department of Transportation.

When the project is finished, HOV and transit users can expect to shave up to 10 minutes off trips that pass through SR-516 and South 320th, officials said.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and by e-mail at

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