The following information was sent in a news release from the Washington State Department of Transportation:

Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater drivers are encouraged to avoid using Interstate 5 in Olympia for cross-town travel during two upcoming weekends. Long-distance travelers should plan alternative routes to avoid the Olympia area or be prepared for significant delays.

Over the weekends of Sept. 12 and Sept. 19, crews will repair a worn bridge expansion joint that bisects all lanes of northbound and southbound I-5 near Capitol Lake. The expansion joint also extends through adjacent US 101 on- and off-ramps. Work is part of a larger $4.5 million project to pave sections of I-5 from Tumwater Boulevard to Gravelly Lake Drive in Pierce County.

I-5 closure details (note work is weather-dependent):

Beginning 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 11, crews will shift three northbound I-5 lanes to the left and reduce the on-ramp from southbound US 101 to northbound I-5 to one lane. At that time, the Deschutes Way on-ramp to northbound I-5 will also close until 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15.

Beginning at 10 p.m., Friday, Sept. 12, and continuing around the clock through 5 a.m. Monday, Sept. 15, contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation will reduce lanes and shift traffic on southbound and northbound I-5.

During daytime hours on both weekends, I-5 will be reduced to two lanes in each direction. At 10 p.m. on each Friday, Saturday and Sunday, an additional lane will close, reducing I-5 to one lane in each direction. Ramps in the area will close as well and remain closed through Monday morning. A second lane will reopen each following morning by 8 a.m.

WSDOT traffic engineers anticipate lengthy traffic backups and delays on both southbound and northbound I-5. In addition to I-5, drivers are advised to plan for delays on southbound US 101 approaching I-5.

Similar lane reductions and delays will be repeated during the weekend of Sept. 19. The weekend of Sept. 26 is an alternate weekend should rain cancel the work on one weekend.

What can drivers do?

WSDOT needs help from drivers to keep traffic moving during both weekends.

“It’s exceedingly important for drivers to consider their travel plans during these weekends,” said WSDOT project engineer Ricky Bhalla. “Their best option is to avoid the area altogether. If that is not possible, we’re asking people to travel through the area early in the morning or late at night, add lots of extra travel time to their trips, and to be patient with the delays.”

Map out a strategy:

Consider Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Portland.

Travel on other state highways to avoid I-5, using the opportunity to explore other areas of the state.

What if drivers must use I-5 in Olympia?

Drivers who cannot avoid I-5 in Olympia during the two weekends are advised to:

  • Expect considerable delays with miles of stop-and-go traffic;
  • Consider traveling through the area early (before 10 a.m.) or late (after 8 p.m.) in the day;
  • Be prepared – have a full tank of gas, have diversionary games for children traveling in the car, and pack patience.
  • Allow plenty of extra time to reach travel destinations.

Help for drivers

Real-time travel and traffic information are available. These include:

  • Online tools that provide traffic camera images and a map of highway incidents and closures.
  • The 511 travel information hotline. For out-of-state callers, it’s 1-800-695-ROAD (7623).
  • Overhead and roadside electronic signs.
  • Highway advisory broadcasts: 530 AM or 1610 AM.

Hyperlinks within the release:

WSDOT keeps people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state’s transportation systems. To learn more about what we’re doing, go to for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at or by dialing 511.

(PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Transportation)