Stretch of Benson Highway in Renton to get U-turns

Repaving was expected to begin this week of about 1 1/2 miles of the Benson Highway in Renton that will result in some lane closures, mainly at night.

Repaving was expected to begin this week of about 1 1/2 miles of the Benson Highway in Renton that will result in some lane closures, mainly at night.

No lane closures will occur northbound before 9 a.m. weekdays, when traffic tends to thin on the heavily used commuter route between Kent and Renton.

The repaving is weather-dependent, so this week’s rains could delay the work. The work is scheduled for six nights. The work won’t require a full closure of the road from Southeast 176th Street to Southeast 192nd Street and a lane will be open in each direction during the night-time paving.

The project, budgeted for $2.9 million, is designed to eliminate the two-way, left-hand turn lanes that provide access to local businesses, but which present a safety hazard, according to a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

“The driving factor is safety,” said the spokesman, Greg Phipps.

A raised traffic island will replace the left-hand turn lanes. In the place of the lanes, the state will allow U-turns at Southeast 176th Street for northbound traffic to head south and at Southeast 180th Street for southbound traffic to go north, according to Phipps.

Access also will be provided to the Benson Center.

Traffic signals will be retimed to accommodate the new traffic flows.

Motorists know the sensation when confronted with another driver coming at them in the turn lane, according to Phipps.

“It’s something that’s a little scary,” he said.

The data on collisions for this section of the Benson, known officially as State Route 515, shows a high number of collisions when compared to a highway with similar traffic volumes, according to the state.

The state is making similar improvements on other state highways in the region where there are left-hand turn lanes.

The state watched the local weather forecast closely for much of the week to determine when to begin the work. The original plan was to start the paving Wednesday night.

A dry surface is needed for the top layer of asphalt to adhere to the layer below, Phipps said.

Earlier, the damaged roadway was scraped off, leaving a rough surface and raised storm drains for motorists to navigate through. A heavy rainstorm earlier in the week left standing water on the roadway.

Also, the initial striping is only temporary. The final striping will be done in July when the asphalt is sufficiently cured so that the striping will adhere properly, according to Phipps.

Roughly half of the project’s funding – $1.3 million – comes from the gas-tax increase in 2005; the rest is from state sources, according to Phipps.

The work on the Benson has been under way for several weeks and included some utility work on the side of the highway. The work is expected to be completed by this fall.

Dean A. Radford can be reached at 425-255-3484, ext. 5050, or at