Weekend-long lane reductions coming to Aurora Bridge

By Tom Pearce
Traffic will reduce to one lane in each direction
while a portion of the Aurora Bridge is repaved
May 31-June 3. The rest of the bridge will be
paved during other weekends.

Ah, another summer, another round of weekend-long lane reductions in Seattle for repaving. This year the closures will take place on the State Route 99 George Washington Bridge, aka the Aurora Bridge. It’s part of a larger preservation project that includes painting the bridge.

Our contract with Liberty Maintenance allows for paving for up to 10 weekends. These weekends include around-the-clock lane reductions on the bridge. This leaves just one lane open in each direction. The first lane reduction begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 31, and will last until 5 a.m. Monday, June 3. Other weekend lane reductions scheduled so far are:
  • June 14-17
  • June 28-July 1
  • July 12-15
  • Aug. 9-12, 16-19 and 23-26
Bridge vs. land

Paving a bridge is different than paving on land. When there’s solid ground underneath, we can grind off the old pavement and leave it ground for a few days, then repave it a few nights later.

Bridges have layers – the Aurora Bridge has steel beams and stringers supporting the structure, a concrete deck, a layer of waterproofing material and an asphalt driving surface. The waterproofing material is the thinnest part – just a fraction of an inch – but it’s critical. It protects the concrete deck from water, something that isn’t necessary on land. So when we remove the material, we want to replace it and repave as soon as possible, hence weekend-long lane reductions. Sounds simple, right?

Well, not exactly. The surface has to be totally dry 24 hours before we install the waterproofing or it won’t bond properly with the asphalt and concrete. We have a cool short video from our westbound US 2 project that shows what happens when the material is put down when the surface is wet. It’s not good. That means the work is weather-dependent – if there’s a good chance of rain in the forecast, our contractor will have to postpone the work.
The bridge needs repaving to eliminate cracks and ruts, and to protect the bridge deck.

Repaving Aurora in Seattle

The bridge paving is just one of two projects that will repave SR 99 between Roy Street in downtown Seattle and North 145th Street at the Seattle/Shoreline city limits. While one team works on the bridge, another will tackle the rest of the highway on land.

Crews already have finished paving the southbound section of SR 99 between the Aurora Bridge and Roy Street and are working northbound in that same area now. They’ll continue working north of the bridge throughout the summer.
Crews already have finished paving the southbound section of SR 99
between the Aurora Bridge and Roy Street and are working northbound
in that same area now. They’ll continue working north of the bridge
throughout the summer.

All of this work helps preserve the highway and provide a safer experience for travelers. When we repave, the new asphalt protects the ground that supports the road. Repaving also eliminates potholes, cracks and ruts where water can collect, which could reduce traction. Finally, repaving helps reduce maintenance costs or the need for emergency repairs which can be a big hassle for people who travel.

We understand it can be harder for people to get around when we have a major project like this. But for a season’s disruptions, these projects provide years of better travel conditions. Sounds like a pretty good trade.

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