Beginning in late March of last year, motorists traveling along Interstate 90 between Sullivan and Barker roads were asked to let up on the gas and apply some additional patience as they drove past a freeway construction zone.
A $15 million project would eventually add a lane in both directions along the 2.8-mile section of the heavily traveled thoroughfare. Asphalt would also be replaced by sturdier Portland Cement Concrete with the resulting three-lane arrangement similar to the transformation of I-90 from Argonne to Sullivan that began in 2003 and wrapped up in 2005.
According to Darrell McCallum, project engineer with the Washington Department of Transportation, the project moved along at a healthy pace, despite a late start due to a soggy spring. The roadway has now been adjusted to a “winter configuration” with three lanes in both directions and the speed limit set at 60 mph. The final phases of the work are scheduled for completion this spring.
“I think the project went well,” McCallum said. “It’s going to be a great improvement for motorists.”
Acme Concrete Paving Inc. of Spokane won the construction bid at the cool price of $14,949,578. Funding for the work came from a combination of state and federal sources.
A primary route for commuters and trucks hauling freight, the eastern Spokane County/North Idaho segment of I-90 had begun to see significant rutting, despite new asphalt being applied in 2003, McCallum said. Studded snow tires are one of the main contributors to the wear, he added.
“Adding the concrete makes a difference,” McCallum said. “We won’t have to replace it nearly as often.”
In addition to a more stable surface, drivers will also notice a safer transition at the Barker Road juncture as a result of a third lane. Westbound vehicles merging onto I-90 at Barker will coast into their own lane, instead of having to navigate oncoming traffic, while eastbound vehicles in the outside lane will be carried automatically to the exit as the third lane drops after Barker.
McCallum said illuminated signs indicating travel velocity helped mitigate speed along the construction route, posted at 50 mph until about a month ago. State highway patrols also monitored the area. Tickets in construction zones run double the typical fine.
WSDOT plans to widen I-90 to the Idaho state line with Barker to Harvard Road being the next stage of the overall project. Additional improvements are slated for the Harvard Road interchange, Harvard to Idaho Road and the Idaho Road interchange.
Last April, over 100 people attended at WSDOT open house in eastern Spokane Valley to discuss future changes to the transportation map between Barker and Harvard, including a trio of recommendations for the Barker/Cataldo Avenue/Boone Avenue intersection and a pair of proposals for the junction at Barker and Broadway Avenue.
“People had a lot of good questions,” said WSDOT spokesman Al Gilson. “It was good to see this many people at the event. I know our engineers will make refinements based on citizen input.”
Comments and suggestions were collected on cards and will be reviewed by WSDOT engineers currently working on the design phase of the work. WSDOT estimates the cost for the design, right-of-way and construction to be around $85 million.
The general strategy for the project includes the previously mentioned addition of a lane in both directions from the west side of the Barker Road interchange to the Harvard Road area as well as interchange upgrades. The overcrossing and ramps in the Greenacres area would be removed to improve mainline I-90 and roadway geometrics would be addressed, including the elimination of low bridge clearances. Gilson said construction would also involve replacing the existing roadway with the same Portland Cement Concrete utilized from Sullivan to Barker.
Signage, the illumination system and Intellignet Transportation System would also be updated as part of the project.