WSDOT crews report unsafe driving through North Fork Lewis River Bridge work zone


The Washington State Department of Transportation recently reported to the Cowlitz County Safety Feed Facebook page that some drivers were passing unsafely through the North Fork Lewis River Bridge work zone on Interstate 5.

“Our crews say they regularly see drivers looking at phones or other devices and blowing past signs about slowing down or stopping — which puts everyone on the road at risk,” stated Kelly Hanahan, assistant communications manager for the southwest region of WSDOT. “Some vehicles were reported traveling much faster than usual (100 mph and higher), putting our crews, other travelers, pedestrians and other first responders at risk.”

Hanahan added that, starting in 2024, travelers will see speed cameras in work zones.

Since 1950, WSDOT has had 60 workers killed on the job with a vast majority in marked roadway work zones, Hanahan stated.

In 2022, the State of Washington recorded 1,192 work zone crashes, which included six fatal crashes, 35 serious injury crashes, 315 minor injury crashes and 836 crashes resulting in property damage.

“The number of combined fatal or serious injury work zone crashes on Washington roads increased 20.5 percent from 2021 to 2022, even though the number of total work zone crashes decreased by 12.5 percent during the same time period,” Hanahan stated. “This upward trend in serious injuries and fatalities is alarming, unacceptable and unsustainable as a society — and why we must take action to improve work zone safety.”

Hanahan stated the top three reasons cited for work zone crashes were speeding, distracted/inattentive driving and following too closely.

The Cowlitz County Safety Feed Facebook page added that, in the reports they received, drivers were “getting too close for comfort” through the work zone.

“I would say an aware driver is choosing their lane position to protect not just themselves but everybody else,” Target Zero Manager Doug Dahl said. “And so, in an emergency zone, even if you can’t move in the other lane, you can move away from the folks that are working on the side of the road to give them more room. … When there’s vulnerable people in proximity to your car, every inch that you give them matters.”

WSDOT asks for all drivers to slow down and drive the posted speeds; be kind as their workers are helping to keep drivers safe and improve the roadways; pay attention both to workers and surrounding traffic; and stay calm as drivers should expect delays. When expecting a delay because of road construction, WSDOT advised drivers to leave early or take an alternative route if possible, stating no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone’s life.

“Employees in work zones are spouses, parents, children, siblings and friends — and they all deserve to go home safe at the end of their shift,” Hanahan stated. “They are out there improving or repairing roadways to help keep travelers safe — and they need everyone’s help to keep them safe as well.”

The construction on the northbound span of the North Fork Lewis River Bridge began on Friday, Sept. 8 and will continue around-the-clock for the next two months. The construction has caused the three lanes of travel to shift down to two narrow lanes approaching the northbound span of the bridge, located between mileposts 19.36 and 20.0 south of Woodland. In the work zone, the speed limit has been reduced down to 60 mph from 70 mph leading up to the work zone and then down to 45 mph along the bridge.

The project will repair the bridge deck, modify expansion joints and install new bridge joint seals on both northbound and southbound spans of Interstate-5.

What is currently happening on the northbound span will occur on the southbound span next year, Hanahan added.

For more information about the project, visit