ODOT warns of freeway apocalypse this summer
Freeway closures for construction on I-84 began this week, and will likely wreak havoc on Portland-area commutes until the end of summer.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning motorists about extreme congestion over the next few months, as crews rebuild the Interstate 5 southbound ramp to Interstate 84 eastbound, which will be closed for two weeks, followed by other ramp closures.
ODOT officials are urging motorists to plan ahead. Drivers are warned to expect rush-hour like congestion or worse, from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays. Commutes during construction could last hours, particularly on I-84 westbound between Interstate 205 and I-5, where congestion is expected to stretch up to three hours long when the westbound ramps to I-5 are closed.
The closures are also expected to cause congestion on local roads as travelers divert off the interstate or use other on-ramps to I-84 eastbound.
Three bridges connected to the two interstates need structural repair and resurfacing. During the closure, crews plan to replace 16 bridge joints that link the ramps, remove the existing concrete, perform repairs to metal below the concrete surface and placing new concrete.
As the concrete cures, traffic cannot use the ramp.
The southbound I-5 ramp to I-84 will be closed through July 23. The I-84 westbound ramp to northbound Interstate 5 will close July 27 through Aug. 6.
One lane of I-84 westbound will be open from Lloyd Center to I-5 from July 27 through Aug. 2, according to ODOT. The I-84 westbound lane to I-5 will also be down to one lane from Aug. 17 through Aug. 27.
Looking to get around the mess? ODOT advises motorists to take MAX light rail when possible. Trains will bypass much of the congestion.
Stuck in traffic? ODOT has prepared a Spotify playlist to help ease the pain of being stuck in traffic. Congestion-related tunes include "Road to Nowhere" by the Talking Heads, "It's too Late" by Carole King, "The Longest Time" by Billy Joel and "Running on Empty" by Jackson Browne.
The construction could affect more than just commuters. Lt. Damon Simmons with Portland Fire and Rescue said emergency responders are preparing, as response times could be impacted by the construction.
Usually construction crews are able to leave one lane available for emergency vehicles, but that won't be available this time. Crews are expected to tear out the entire ramp at once.
"To get to these calls quickly and then it's just going to be pushing through traffic and looking for people to move to the right to get to these calls quickly," Simmons said.
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