I-5 free and clear

Staff Writer

The state Department of Transportation opened all lanes of Interstate 5 near Federal Way Thursday afternoon, marking the end of the high-occupancy vehicle lane expansion and bridge deck resurfacing project a week ahead of schedule.

Department of Transportation and privately contracted road crews worked day and night to finish the project, which closed several lanes of I-5 southbound and caused pretty constant traffic congestion in south King County.

George Doussett, a Department of Transportation project inspector, stood behind the guard rail at the South 288th Street bridge on the southbound side of Interstate 5 during an afternoon last week.

In front of him, workers laid an absorbent mat and plastic over recently poured concrete. Behind him was a steep slope leading to detention ponds covered with green scum.

He said he’d been at work since 3:30 that morning.

For Department of Transportation workers, being tired isn’t an excuse to slow down.

“We don’t have time to be,” he said, standing behind the guard rail. “We have a window. In 20 days, we hope to have this done.”

On the first day of the I-5 project, a crew of Department of Transportation workers met at the South 272nd Street park and ride lot in Federal Way.

They wore orange and yellow vests, work boots, jeans and sunglasses and stood around the bed of a white pick-up, leaning on it with their elbows. They talked about digital cameras and football. Raspy laughs punctuated ironic comments.

At the appointed time, they all got into white trucks with yellow lights and drove to the site, cutting in behind the line of orange barrels.

Ray Arnold, an engineering manager with the Department of Transportation, said planning a project like the HOV lane expansion takes a long time. He said he was a designer on the project back in the early 1990s and added there’s a subtle skill involved in matching projects to funding.

Since the road crews were going to be out doing the HOV lane work as part of a project to extend the lane from Tukwila to the Pierce County line, they decided to go ahead and resurface the 30-year-old bridge decks.

Workers tore out the old concrete and stripped the underlying surface of oil and debris. They dragged chains over the area to find weak spots and filled them in. Then they poured a dense, strong, modified concrete that’s expected to last 25 years.

Pouring concrete is weather-sensitive business, Doussett said. Rain one Sunday this month delayed the I-5 project, so workers doubled up the next couple days to get the work done on time.

“If there’s too much wind, you can’t pour. Too much deck heat, you can’t pour. You can’t pour in the rain,” Doussett said.

After dragging chains over the new concrete to ensure everything bonded properly, workers shifted the orange barrels and jersey barriers to the other side of the freeway to start work there.

They worked around the clock and finished a week ahead of schedule.

The contractors received a bonus of $10,000 a day not to exceed five days for finishing the project early. Since the project was scheduled to be finished Sept. 26, contractors received a $50,000 bonus for finishing up more than five days ahead of

Bids on cruises, golf packages, restaurant dinners, sporting events and more can be made at Centerstage Theatre’s fund-raising auction beginning at 5 p.m. Sept. 28, prior to the 8 p.m. showtime of “Grace and Glorie.”

Appetizers, a no-host bar and jazz by the Jim Day Trio are part of the event at the Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW. Dash Point Road.

Tickets for the event rae $50, which includes admission to the play, or $30 for season ticketholders. Proceeds will benefit the non-profit professional theater company’s general operating fund. To attend, call 661-1444.

Performances of “Grace & Glorie” are at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 12 at the Knutzen.

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

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