SNOQUALMIE PASS, Wash. - Drivers got a taste of it last summer. But now the work is in full swing in the effort to transform 5 miles of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass along Lake Keechelus into a much better stretch of freeway.
But expect delays, lane closures and hour-long shutdowns for blasting that could happen around 8 p.m. several times a week through October.
In some places, the road surface is pushing 60 years old, says Bob Hooker, the Assistant Project Engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation.
But old concrete is just one problem. Avalanches and limited capacity are the others.
Take the curve at a spot known informally as Jenkins Knob. Here, the interstate squeezes between a big rocky cliff and the lake. It is only two lanes wide with no shoulder. A stalled vehicle, much less an accident, can plug up traffic in an instant. This is the spot where the blasting work will take place first.
It was planned for Monday night, but everything has been pushed back for the first test blasts till Tuesday night around dusk at about 8 p.m. Closures are expected to last about an hour.
But when it's done, Jenkins Knob will be three lanes each direction, with a 12-foot shoulder on each side.
The blasting closures are done for safety reasons, but some of the other delays should get better once a detour crossover is completed just east of Hyak.
WSDOT is trying to keep two lanes open in each direction.
Other elements of the project include a new bridge over Gold Creek that will also better allow wildlife passage under the freeway.
A new snowshed will cover both the eastbound and westbound lanes and reduce avalanche closures by about 70 percent in the area where the existing showshed from the 1950s protects the westbound lanes only.
It will all be completed in 2016.