How will WSDOT re-route WB traffic on I-82 near Selah during Aug. bridge repairs?

SELAH, Wash. — Starting in early August, the Washington State Department of Transportation will be closing a section of I-82 westbound to make repairs to the Yakima River and Naches River bridges.

Anyone who lives or works in Selah area or passes the area on the freeway headed to Ellensburg will need to budget at least a few extra minutes of time for their commute for the next month.

Selah Police Chief Dan Christman said his phone’s been ringing off the hook from residents worried about their daily commute and concerned business owners.

“Some businesses have wondered if they should limit their hours because they don’t think that any traffic will be coming from Yakima into Selah,” Christman said.

Christman has pointed those business owners to the map published by WSDOT, but said it’s left many feeling confused because the map doesn’t provide an up-close look at the roads.

WSDOT spokesperson Summer Derrey said she gets the confusion, but wants to assure the community they’ll have full access to get in and out of Selah and to Ellensburg on the freeway.

“For the most part, we’re not shutting anything down,” Derrey said. “We’re just closing a half mile section of it, westbound only, that’s from Yakima into Selah so that crews can repair the bridges in that section.”

Derrey clarified several comments and concerns KAPP-KVEW heard coming from local residents and business owners, including that:

  • There will still be direct access into and out of Selah. Some residents were concerned that a detour around this area would mean taking an alternate route that might discourage people from shopping or eating in the city. People will not have take back roads through Gleed or double back on I-82 at the exit near Firing Center Road to get to Selah.
  • Drivers will still be able to take I-82 westbound to Ellensburg. Anyone who commutes to and from Ellensburg from Yakima will be able to drive on I-82 westbound, use Selah Road to skirt around the closed section of freeway where the road crews will be working and then hop back onto the freeway before Selah Road veers off into the city center.
  • The only closure is for the half-mile stretch of I-82 westbound. It’s right before the Naches River bridge and right after the Rest Haven overpass, past the Yakima River bridge. While there will be some small construction projects on the eight mile stretch of freeway up to Fred G. Redmond Bridge, it will not close down I-82 in those areas.
  • Speed will be reduced to 35 miles per hour, causing some delays. While Selah residents will not have to take back roads or circular routes to get back to their homes, they might see traffic backups due to the lowered speed limit and having both westbound traffic from I-82 and from Selah Road sharing several lanes for that half-mile stretch of freeway.
  • No one will be able to use the ramp to I-82 westbound off of North First Street in Yakima. However, people will still be able to access I-82 from North First Street by taking the ramps to U.S. Highway 12 and then following westbound traffic through the detour onto Selah Road or by taking the Selah Road exit directly.
  • Selah Road will remain open for westbound traffic only and will be closed to eastbound drivers. Derrey said transportation officials decided to use both lanes of the road to mitigate the delay being caused by having freeway and regular traffic on that one stretch of road. There will not be any closures or detours for drivers on I-82 eastbound.
  • The only locations that will require westbound drivers to circle back around using I-82 eastbound is Harlan Landing and Rest Haven Road. Derry said probably the most time consuming impact will be for anyone traveling westbound on I-82 who wants to get to either Harlan Landing or Rest Haven Road. With westbound access blocked by road crews repairing the bridges, drivers will have to continue on I-82 westbound until they get to exit 29 to East Selah Road — near the fruit stand — and take two left turns to head eastbound on the freeway.
  • Road work will likely start Monday, Aug. 8, instead of Monday, Aug. 1 and will last about a month. Derrey said the project was scheduled to start Monday, but now they’re anticipating to start work Aug. 8.

Derrey said the delay shouldn’t be too significant during non-peak travel times, but could be longer during the morning rush to get to work and as people are coming home from the office.

“It gets pretty congested, so I would just add a couple extra minutes to your drive,” Derrey said. “Traffic will, for all purposes, be normal once you get past this detour, aside from a little construction.”

However, Christman said any traffic backup on the freeway is a safety concern because it could slow down ambulances trying to get to Selah residents having medical emergencies or frustrate drivers, pushing them to the breaking point.

“Maybe the traffic isn’t going as fast as they want to, maybe somebody cut them off and so especially in these congested areas, we anticipate potentially some road rage issues,” Christman said.

Christman said any error in driving could put road workers in danger of serious injury or, in the worst case scenario, cost them their lives.

“We have had it happen here before,” Christman said. “We had a road worker who was struck and died as a result of that.”

Last summer, a highway flagger was struck and killed by a suspected drunk driver on I-82 westbound near the Yakima River Bridge — the same area road crews will be working in starting early next month.

“We really want our motoring public to be aware of that and make sure that nobody gets hurt out there,” Christman said. “My encouragement to the community is just take a big deep breath, be aware it’s going to happen and allocate time for it.”

 

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