Tacoma’s stretch of Interstate 5 has appeared encased in a never-ending string of construction projects. But as that construction timeframe creeps toward a finish, the list of accomplished tasks has started to add up. From three new bridges to fresh lanes and ramps, a seven-mile stretch through Tacoma has started to take on a new look.
This summer, traffic moved to the new northbound I-5 bridge that spans I-705 and State Route 7. Crews temporarily split southbound I-5 into two roadways to create space to rebuild southbound I-5 and the associated ramps. This past September, crews realigned a pair of ramps, built retention ponds, installed drainage and electrical components and started on drilling the shafts for a pier on the new McKinley Street overpass. Two new ramps will open to traffic this fall.
As traffic gets re-routed through the ever-changing work zone, drivers will soon move onto the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge, ideally this month. The 1,569-ft-long bridge straightens the roadway and meets current seismic standards. With the new configuration, fresh ramps and traffic patterns will also get put into place.
“We know there will be an adjustment for drivers exiting to the Port of Tacoma Road or East 20th Street, and we appreciate their patience during this transition,” says WSDOT project manager Brenden Clarke. “Opening the new bridge to ramp traffic marks a milestone for this project.”
Once the new ramp traffic is on the bridge, crews will begin building lanes to match the new alignment of northbound I-5 leading up to the new bridge. If weather cooperates, owner Washington State Dept of Transportation expects all northbound I-5 traffic to use the new bridge as soon as spring 2018.
Before the end of the year, crews on three projects covering seven miles of I-5 through Tacoma will have finished building three new northbound I-5 bridges. The third bridge nearing completion comes at the interchange of State Route 16 and I-5. Crews building direct-connect HOV lanes between the two highways expect to move northbound I-5 traffic to the new alignment and over the new bridge that spans the eastbound SR 16 ramp by Nov. 15.
As projects continue to wrap up in the Tacoma area, another one is expected to get started in 2018. The new I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road southbound HOV project will build a new southbound I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River.
The entire Tacoma/Pierce Count HOV program spans 17 projects over 20 years at a rate of $1.6 billion. WSDOT is now down to the final four projects.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.