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Eastern Region - E-Mail Update Newsletter

May 2016

Mike Frucci

Welcome to our June newsletter. This month we talk about off-ramp construction, an open house meeting, and chip seals.

As always, if you have any questions on items in this newsletter, or other transportation issues, please let me know. Give us a call at (509) 324-6010 or send me an email at

Mike Frucci
Acting Regional Administrator
WSDOT Eastern Region

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I-90 construction ramps up with new Freya off-ramp

Long backups on the westbound Interstate 90 Freya Street exit should be a thing of the past when a new off-ramp is completed later this summer.

Since the freeway opened in 1957, drivers getting off westbound I-90 in the east central neighborhood have contended with the short ramp and a traffic signal (or stop signs in the early days) at Freya. With increased traffic during the past few years, exiting vehicles back up onto the freeway lanes during the busy commute hours, even after a second lane was added to the ramp a few years ago.

Change is on the way with a new off-ramp constructed to the east that will funnel traffic onto Second Avenue near Havana Street. This will create more ramp capacity, giving the motorists an opportunity to get in the proper lane to continue west on Second or travel north on Freya.

The $3.9 million ramp project solves a congestion issue and an air quality problem. Currently, multiple traffic signal phases for Freya Street, the westbound off ramp and westbound Second Avenue create congestion and pollution from idling vehicles. With the new off ramp, one of the signal phases will be eliminated, resulting in a more efficient intersection.

Work begins today, Monday, June 13, with setup items, and construction should take about 10 weeks, wrapping up in mid-August. The project shouldn’t have much effect on drivers; they will continue to use the existing off-ramp during the work. There will be some restrictions on westbound Second Avenue. I-90 will remain open with some short-term lane restrictions when the new ramp is tied into the freeway late in the project.

WSDOT is also partnering with the City of Spokane on sidewalk improvements, landscaping, and a pathway along Second Avenue. Shamrock Paving of Spokane is the prime contractor on the project. Funding for the work came from the state 2005 Transportation Partnership Act and the federal Congestion Management/Air Quality program through the Spokane Regional Transportation Council (SRTC).

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Help design the new SR 290/Trent Avenue Bridge

Persons who are interested in the look of a new State Route 290/Trent Avenue bridge across the Spokane River will have an opportunity to influence its design elements.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is hosting an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 29 (rescheduled from the June 22 date that we mentioned last month), at UGM Recovery Center Staff Offices, 1306 E. Trent, Spokane.

WSDOT representatives will be on hand to explain the potential improvements, answer questions and take design element suggestions from the public, business leaders, and drivers. These ideas will be used to shape the final design for the bridge, located just east of Hamilton Street in east Spokane.

The existing bridge was built in 1910 when Spokane was just emerging from the horse and buggy era and motorcars began appearing on the streets alongside electric trolley cars. In fact, remnants of those trolley tracks lie beneath the asphalt surface of the structure. The bridge is not only an important component of the Spokane community by serving as a state highway connection, but also by carrying vital water and sewer mains across the Spokane River.

Although still safe for use, the current structure is showing its age, with the effects of freezing cold winters, blistering hot summers, and thousands of vehicles pounding its surface for more than 115 years.

The new bridge will serve the community for many decades into the future. Construction is slated to begin in 2018 and will take about two years to complete.

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Chip Seals preserve Eastern Region highways

Chip Seals, also known as seal coating, or Bituminous Surface Treatment (BST) is the application of a special protective roadway surface made up of a layer of small clean gravel “chips” coated with asphalt oil. This process is used on highway sections that have lower traffic volumes and serve some of the more rural areas.

Prior to the highway being sealed, WSDOT Maintenance crews inspect the roadway and repair any damage to the surface. Unlike a full pavement overlay, the chip seal process does not add any structural integrity to the highway. A BST treatment does seal the roadway and help protect it from further damage while renewing the driving surface, including renewed surface friction. Any structural repairs such as patching or grade correction must be made prior to sealing. Chip-sealing is a multi-step process, and is usually scheduled as contractor crews and weather permits. In many cases the chip seal application is also preceded by application of a special product to fill larger cracks. There can be several days, or a few weeks, between each step. For a broader description of our chip seal process, check out this web page link.

With the cost of a BST being 80% cheaper than the cost of regular pavement overlays, they are a primary part of WSDOT strategy to maintain the highway system. Typically a BST roadway will need renewed within a 6-8 year cycle and some of the lower volume roadways can last even longer. BST’s are sensitive to temperature and moisture requiring the first applications to be placed south of Interstate 90 and West of Spokane. As the season progresses into mid and late summer, you will find our crews working to the north and into the more mountainous parts of the seven-county Eastern Region.

In 2016 we will BST approximately 60 miles of highway in our Region. On any given year this amount can be much higher depending on how much of the system has come to the end of its cycle and is due to be renewed.

One final thought, you will be seeing the use of BST more and more as a maintenance strategy. A perfect example of this is the use of BST as a short term pavement rut filling measure. The use of BST’s in this way allows us to defer the cost of the more expensive pavement overlay for a few years, saving considerable money over the life of that section of roadway. These savings are used to fix other areas within the Region that are in more need of repair.

For a full list of our chip seal work this year, go to our 2016 chip seal web page.


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