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Construction crews work on the Boundary Bridge replacement project on U.S. 97 near the Swauk Campground. Drivers can expect delays at that project Friday.

Drivers headed over Blewett Pass Friday are advised to gear up for construction delays, as one of two construction projects in the area pushes forward to finish up by the end of summer.

Two separate projects are underway along U.S. 97 from the junction of state Route 970 to the summit at Blewett Pass. A resurfacing effort is underway along the entire length of that portion, while a bridge replacement project also is making progress. That project, referred to as the Boundary Bridge fish barrier removal project is located near the Swauk Campground.

Washington State Department of Transportation North Central Region Communications Manager Lauren Loebsack said an existing culvert at the site had become a fish passage barrier and was undermining the area underneath the roadway, impacting the integrity of the road shoulders.

“They’re going in and constructing a bridge that will allow the water to flow underneath freely,” she said. “That will extend the life of the road there, and it will also serve to remove the impediment for fish passage.”

Loebsack said the roughly $4.2 million project began in April, and that the conditions at the site have been a bit trickier than originally expected.

“The need for traffic impact has been greater than we originally assumed we would be getting into,” she said. “Bypass lanes were constructed to allow traffic through, but there’s been a lot of staging in an effort to be careful, particularly because there’s some overhead staging of equipment and materials.”

Loebsack said traffic stops also have been necessary at the Boundary Bridge site for the safety of both drivers and contractors, despite having the bypass lane. Although not typical for weekend travel, she said the traffic stops will be in place from roughly 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the site in order to place a reinforced steel cage that will aid in the construction of the concrete shafts of the new bridge. Loebsack said drivers can expect delays of 15 to 20 minutes while the stops are in place.

“That takes some staging and some time to set up before they can get that completed and stage in a way where it’s safe for traffic to flow beside it,” she said. “We usually really work to avoid those Fridays, but we’ve got to get this job done before the season wraps.”

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Loebsack said the department tries to not conduct work on Fridays accommodate the heightened traffic from vacationers.

“It also works as a safety enhancer for us,” she said. “People aren’t traveling through our construction sites, too. It’s just better to try not to work on Fridays during the summer season. The timeline is just stretching because of the challenges to this project, so we’re going to have to do that work on Friday.”

REPAVING WORK ALMOST COMPLETE

Loebsack said the repaving project that stretches from the intersection of U.S. 97 and state Route 970 and continues for approximately 16 miles to Thompson Creek near the summit of Blewett Pass is moving along on schedule. The $5 million project is planning and repaving that stretch of roadway to maintain its integrity. Loebsack said the project is expected to be complete in mid-August.

“They are not expecting anything to deviate them from the schedule at this point,” she said. “We’re going along at the expected clip, and there are no concerns from the contractor in regard to the timeline.”

Once complete, Loebsack said the work will extend the lifespan of the road surface by approximately 12 to 14 years. Crews are on site from Monday to Thursday, and delays have been averaging 15 to 20 minutes. Until both projects are complete, Loebsack said it is important that people accommodate potential slowdowns into their traveling schedule if they are planning on going over Blewett Pass in either direction, especially on weekends.

“Regardless of the construction projects, we’re seeing huge influxes recreational traffic Fridays through Mondays,” she said. “It’s causing slowdowns on both U.S. 2 and 97. Just understand that there is a lot of other people that want to get to where they’re going as well, and to please build that time into your schedule so that it’s not a stressor if you do get hit with traffic delays.”

Loebsack said it is also important to remain attentive in construction zones and to adhere to the amended speed limits, especially in the bridge replacement area, even if crews are not present.

“Those speeds are in place at all times in the bypass area because the lanes are so narrow,” she said. “You just need to travel safely through there and being attentive to that reduced speed limit will help you be able to maneuver through there more safely. There are very narrow shoulders there, and not a lot of room for error. Reducing that speed gives you just a little more time.”

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