A major step in construction of a new north Spokane freeway gets under way today with new lane restrictions and a detour on U.S. Highway 2.
The detour and restrictions will continue for the coming year as contractors lower the lanes of U.S. 2 to pass beneath the freeway.
As part of that project, contractors will need to squeeze the highway into three lanes – two northbound and one southbound – so they can build a new arched culvert across Peone Creek, located northeast of the freeway underpass for U.S. 2.
The speed limit in the construction zone on U.S. 2 is being reduced to 45 mph.
“We can expect to see some congestion there in the peak periods,” said Keith Metcalf, regional administrator for the Department of Transportation in Spokane.
Officials are hoping that drivers will change their habits by driving at different times of day and by taking alternate routes to help minimize congestion problems.
Loads greater than 10 feet wide will have to detour onto Market Street.
The traffic restrictions will be in place from the U.S. 2 intersection with Hawthorne Road, nearly to Mt. Spokane Park Drive.
The work comes as contractors move into the final stages of road building and paving for what will become the first drivable link of the freeway, scheduled to open in August, between Freya Street north of Francis Avenue to Farwell Road south of U.S. 2.
In 2011, a second leg of the freeway is expected to open from Farwell Road to an interchange at U.S. Highway 395 in the Wandermere area, including the U.S. 2 interchange. A contract for interchange work at Wandermere is going out for bid next month, Metcalf said.
The freeway crossing at U.S. 2 and its associated interchange has been a major part of the freeway project.
“We are moving a lot of dirt and a lot of things are happening,” Metcalf said.
The U.S. 2 underpass project will involve construction of six bridges, walls and earthmoving along with the new creek culvert, which is going to be wide enough for wildlife to pass beneath the highway along the creek.
Approximately one million cubic yards of dirt will be excavated. The longest bridge in the interchange will span a distance of 980 feet and connect the southbound lanes of U.S. 2 with the southbound lanes of the freeway.
Environmental work includes realigning the creek and restoring wetlands adjacent to the highway.
The project started last fall. Graham Construction of Spokane is the prime contractor on the $43 million piece of the freeway. Completion is expected in 2011 in time for opening of the second segment of freeway from the Wandermere interchange to Farwell Road.
More than $500 million has been allocated to the freeway project so far, with completion of the entire route from Wandermere to Interstate 90 expected to cost in excess of $2 billion.
Bike to Work Week coming up
Registrations are now being taken for Spokane’s second annual Bike to Work Week, May 10-16. To sign up, go to www.biketoworkspokane.org/. Registration is free.
New this year will be a Commute Challenge; teams of four to 10 riders can compete against other teams from similar organizations. Team captains will receive a T-shirt. Information is available on the Web site.
Workshops for bike commuters are planned Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Shadle Library, 2111 W. Wellesley Ave.; Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division St.; and May 4 at 6 p.m. at North Spokane Library, 44 E. Hawthorne Road.
The workshops are free and no registration is needed. Just show up.
Last year’s Bike to Work Week drew 1,000 participants. Organizers hope to increase the number this year to 1,200.
A series of events is planned during the week starting with an education fair on May 10 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at River Park Square.
Bike to Work Spokane is organized by a volunteer committee of the SpokeFest Association in conjunction with the city’s Bicycle Advisory Board and the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.
Southeast getting a makeover
Another of the city’s big street rehabilitation projects gets under way Tuesday on Southeast Boulevard from 29th Avenue to Perry Street.
Southeast will be closed to traffic during the curb-to-curb excavation and reconstruction. In addition, crews will replace a 12-inch water main from 29th to Rockwood Boulevard and other water lines.
Southeast from 29th to Rockwood will be limited to local access only during the $1.9 million project through the city’s 10-year street bond approved by voters in 2004. The designated detour is on 17th Avenue, Ray Street and 29th.
Slow going on North Side
Northwest Spokane drivers report they are encountering traffic problems as a result of at least two major projects, including rehabilitation of Alberta and Cochran streets north of Northwest Boulevard and installation of a new traffic signal at Belt Street and Wellesley Avenue. Closures and lane restrictions are in effect.
The intersection of Garland Avenue and Alberta Street has been closed, making it more difficult to move across the northwest area of the city. Intersections of Alberta at Wellesley, Rowan Avenue and Northwest Boulevard remain open.
I-90 ramp changes begin
New traffic circulation patterns go into effect along Interstate 90 at Pines Road starting today. Traffic on Indiana and Montgomery avenues on the north side of the freeway will be using a new on-ramp configuration to access the freeway. Traffic is expected to be slow through the area during the change, which also involves other lane restrictions for continuing construction.