Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Demolition of Pacific Avenue Bridge in Tacoma to begin soon

By Doug Adamson

Editor’s note: The Pacific Avenue overpass near I-5 in Tacoma closed to all traffic Monday, April 6. The overpass will be closed around the clock through at least March 2016. Depending on the weather, the overpass could be closed longer.

Big equipment will soon demolish the Pacific Avenue overpass in Tacoma. Beginning in early April, big pieces of machinery will disassemble the span over Interstate 5 between South 30th Street and South 32nd Street. It’s the latest phase in the three year I-5 - M Street to Portland Avenue – HOV project.

Why are we tearing it down? 
We’re making substantial improvements to northbound I-5 near I-705/State Route 7 and the Tacoma Dome by expanding the highway to accommodate high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. There’s limited room in this area. The widened highway will go right through the current location of Pacific Avenue bridge supports called piers, so the overpass needs to be replaced and the piers relocated. While northbound I-5 will have a new route, the HOV lanes will be located on the current northbound I-5 lanes.

This visualization illustrates I-5 in Tacoma once construction is complete. 
The new Pacific Avenue overpass will be constructed to current earthquake standards, better protecting our state highway bridges from temblors. The new Pacific Avenue overpass will also have important upgrades for people who walk or ride bicycles. There will be a new 14-foot-wide shared use path that helps encourage walking and bicycling. The bike-pedestrian friendly feature also fits right into the City of Tacoma’s bike lane plan.

When will the Pacific Avenue overpass be closed? 
Starting April 6, the overpass will be closed around the clock for 11 months or longer, depending on weather. All vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians will use a detour until the new connection opens. Plans call for the Pacific Avenue overpass to reopen to two lanes - one lane of traffic in each direction – by March 2016.

Detour
We’ve worked with the City of Tacoma to establish a detour route for vehicles using M Street during the closure. McKinley Way will be used by bicyclists and pedestrians. We understand the closure is an inconvenience for drivers, neighborhood residents and businesses. We also appreciate everyone’s patience as crews build new HOV lanes in Tacoma. 

All Pacific Avenue traffic will be detoured as shown in this map. 

McKinley Way up next 
When the first two lanes open on Pacific, we’ll close the adjacent McKinley Way overpass. It will be closed for 18 months or longer, depending on weather. The McKinley Way overpass also has bridge supports that stand in the way of the new path of northbound I-5 in Tacoma.

After two lanes open on Pacific Avenue, crews will close the McKinley Way
overpass for 18 months or longer, depending on weather. Traffic, bicyclists,
and pedestrians will be detoured as shown on this map.
Ongoing construction
The Tacoma area has seen a lot of highway construction over the years. We have been putting together a very large puzzle called the I-5 - SR 16 Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program. Each time a project is completed (the most recent was the new Eastbound Nalley Valley viaduct), the transportation system gets better. When the puzzle is complete, around 2019, motorists will enjoy increased highway capacity, and an HOV system that extends from Gig Harbor to Everett.