A lengthy project to replace the entire deck of the Vantage Bridge on Interstate 90 is now underway.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) and its contractor partner, Garco Construction of Tacoma, began working to update the critical span over the Columbia River on Monday.

DOT spokesperson, Megan Lott, says upgrades to the bridge are long overdue.

"The last time the bridge deck was fully replaced was back in the 1980s and it's been an ongoing issue in recent years where we're having to patch potholes over the bridge regularly. The bridge deck is just very old and there's a lot of traffic that travels over it, so it's important that we replace its bridge deck so we can reduce the number of closures we have to do in order to patch those potholes."

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For the first eleven weeks of the project, Lott says drivers shouldn't experience any major traffic impacts, but once the summer months get closer, the work will rev into high gear.

"As we start out this spring, drivers will be seeing lane closures in both directions. Then after the Memorial Day Weekend holiday, that's when we'll have permanent single lanes - one lane in each direction, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week - as crews work along the bridge deck putting in pre-cast concrete panels to replace the existing panels that are currently on the bridge."

The DOT will open all lanes of the bridge over the 4th of July and Labor Day holiday weekends but Lott says they are expecting lengthy backups and delays whenever concert events are happening at the nearby Gorge Amphitheater.

Eastbound travelers are also expected to experience long delays on Fridays and westbound travelers on Sundays during the summer months.

The project is scheduled to take three years to complete, with work anticipated to be finished by the fall of 2027.

The current Vantage Bridge was built in 1962 and last saw a major overhaul in 1982. It was constructed to replace the original Vantage Bridge which opened in 1927 and is still in use over the Lower Snake River at Lyons Ferry on State Route 261 after being relocated when the current bridge was put into service 62 years ago.

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