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Crews to replace broken concrete panels on I-5 in Bellingham starting Sept. 18

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Date:  Thursday, September 13, 2012

Contact: Dustin Terpening, WSDOT communications, 360-757-5997 (Burlington)
Ric Willand, WSDOT maintenance supervisor, 360-788-2500 (Bellingham)

Drivers can expect 30-minute delays during morning, afternoon commutes

BELLINGHAM – Two cracked concrete panels on Interstate 5 in Bellingham are breaking apart, and if they’re not soon replaced, they could become a headache for maintenance crews and drivers this winter.

“We need to get out there and replace these panels before they get any worse and become a safety problem for drivers,” said Ric Willand, maintenance supervisor with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT maintenance crews will close the right lane of southbound I-5 at the Samish Way interchange (exit 252) around the clock for up to 36 hours starting at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18. The Lakeway Drive on-ramp to southbound I-5 also will close at the same time. Crews will shift traffic in the left lane of I-5 partly onto the shoulder to make room for the work.

Once crews dig out the broken panels, they’ll rebuild the supporting material below the freeway and then pour the new concrete panels. The new panels will have to cure and strengthen before traffic can drive on them, which could take up to 12 hours.

Thirty-minute delays are expected during the morning and afternoon commutes, and backups could stretch for several miles through downtown Bellingham. Drivers are encouraged to plan ahead and consider taking alternate routes.

“We know it’s inconvenient and is going to cause delays, but if we don’t do the work now, these panels will be a headache all winter long,” Willand said. “We’d probably be out there three times a week filling potholes just trying to keep the road drivable.”

These panels have been around since the interstate was first built through Bellingham more than 50 years ago, and have taken a beating from all the heavy traffic, Willand said.

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