FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- The state's Department of Transportation will start smoothing out one of the bumpiest stretches of Interstate 5 in King County on Monday night.
Crews will close up to three lanes on a three-mile stretch of northbound I-5 -- between South 260th Street and Military Road South in Federal Way and Kent -- starting at 8 p.m. Monday. All lanes will reopen by 5 a.m. each day during the project.
WSDOT said this stretch is among the "worst of the worst" on I-5, an aging freeway in need of a major facelift. The interstate's pavement is now about 50 years old, but it was only supposed to last 30, maybe 40 years.
"It certainly, I think, has gone beyond what the expected life was," said Mark Leth, WSDOT's regional traffic engineer.
If the state could, it would replace more of I-5's pavement, but such a project would cost billions, which is not in the budget. So for now, highway triage, like the project starting this week, is the best option. But even that approach is becoming increasingly expensive.
"No matter how good you take care, the older it gets, the higher your maintenance bills," said Mark Hallenbeck, who oversees the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington.
For the Federal Way-Kent project, which will cost nearly $7 million, crews will cut out and replace 64 old and broken concrete panels.
"It needs some fixing," said Curt Anderson, who frequently drives on that stretch of I-5.
The project should wrap up by Spring 2013, WSDOT said.