VANCOUVER, Wash. – A weekend-long Interstate 5 shutdown in Clark County will divert tens of thousands of drivers in both directions, causing what’s expected to be a traffic nightmare.
Southbound drivers can expect I-5 to be closed between Interstate 205 and Northeast 134th Street in Salmon Creek between 11 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday. Northbound drivers will see a closure over the same time period, but between Highway 500 and I-205.
The closure is necessary, Washington Department of Transportation officials say, so crews can place a dozen 165-foot-long girders across the freeway as part of a project to bring a new interchange to Northeast 139th Street.
"The passing of a girder, of a big concrete girder like that in mid-air is risky and it takes time," said project manager Allen Hendy. "They have to make sure they do it carefully and slowly so it goes right and we don't have any injuries."
The shutdown is expected to impact 88,000 drivers. Clark County motorists are being advised to plan for extra travel time or avoid driving altogether.
“It’s not ‘carmageddon,’ but closing I-5 could certainly gridlock most of Clark County if drivers don’t plan ahead,” WSDOT area engineer Leon Winger said in a statement.
State troopers recommend researching other routes before getting in your car.
"If you know the closure, pre-plan -- look at some routes," said Washington State Patrol Lt. Hason Linn. "If you can avoid the heavy congested areas, that may help you get to your destination quicker."
Officials have noted the following detour routes: Local drivers should use I-205 by way of Highway 500. Drivers passing through should use I-205 by way of Highway 14 or Oregon’s Interstate 84.
To ease traffic backups, stoplights along Highway 500 will stay green and left turns will not be permitted all weekend.
"The detour around the area: They're all freeways, so they're great detour routes," Hendy said. "It shouldn't take people more than five to 10 minutes out of the way than they usually would go, you know, going through the area."
The project will allow crews 54 hours of uninterrupted time to use three cranes to place the multiple girders above the freeway.
The new interchange, officials say, will help alleviate congestion in the busy Salmon Creek area, which can bottleneck traffic from I-5, I-205 and Highway 99. Plans call for an overpass and new on- and offramps.