Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Springtime brings new construction phases in Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

Springtime in the Pacific Northwest conjures up images of brilliant cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips in bloom.  For construction crews building new bridges and replacing the original roadway on Interstate 5 in Tacoma, springtime is ushering in new highway alignments, fresh concrete, and the promise that two of four I-5 projects are in the homestretch.

Future alignment of northbound I-5 (in blue) towards the
 new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge
It’s back for a bit: reduced lane for eastbound SR 16 drivers merging onto northbound I-5
Starting as early as the last week of March, the eastbound SR 16 ramp to northbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane to accommodate a workzone for contractor crews finishing the I-5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV project. This lane reduction has caused delays in the past, and fortunately, this will be the last time we have to implement this lane configuration on this project. To help eastbound SR 16 motorists bypass some of the backups getting onto northbound I-5, we encourage people to try an alternate route that uses SR 7. More information about this route is available on our YouTube video below.
Bye-bye to split southbound I-5
No April fooling on this - the temporary southbound I-5 collector/distributor (c/d) through downtown Tacoma is really going away. Weather permitting, in early April, crews will remove over a mile of barrier from southbound I-5, rejoining all the southbound lanes. Overnight drivers will encounter lane closures while crews remove and reposition the barrier. Once all lanes of southbound I-5 reopen, drivers will be on a brand new roadway surface, heralding a big milestone in this project and opening the door to one of the final phases of construction in this project - completing the new McKinley Way/D Street overpass.

Southbound I-5 lanes shift near SR 16
In a separate project a little further south, another traffic shift will occur this spring at the interchange of I-5 and SR 16.  Design-build contactor Skanska will move the three through-lanes of southbound I-5 to the left, creating a condition where both northbound and southbound I-5 will be closer to each other and separated by barrier. This traffic shift creates a new workzone so crews can begin demolishing and rebuilding southbound I-5. We will announce the dates of this traffic shift as soon as they become available.

All northbound lanes coming to new Puyallup River Bridge
All winter, crews have been rebuilding the roadway alignment on northbound I-5 between Portland Avenue and the Puyallup River so that it aligns up with the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. If weather cooperates, in May crews hope to move all northbound I-5 traffic onto the new bridge.

When does the construction in Tacoma end?
We are building the final four Tacoma/Pierce County HOV projects. Completion of three of the four projects is finally within reach:

2018 Completion

2019 Completion
One last project on I-5 will begin in 2019 and end around 2021. In that project, crews will build a new, parallel southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River next to the new northbound bridge and demolish the two old bridges.

For the latest on overnight lane and ramp closures, visit


JP Maxwell said...

You're kidding right? Sometimes I wonder what it takes these days to be a traffic engineer with WSDOT. Instead of actually offering a detour that will save time you've created a detour that will not only add time to one's Eastbound 16 commute but will also create additional merging and weaving with traffic that is already unfamiliar with the design. Whoever designed this detour as a valid alternative needs to go back to school and learn the art of how traffic flows.

Brian Lee said...

According to the DOT's own website the McKinley overpass was supposed to OPEN in Winter of 2018. It's now Spring 2018 and we're just starting to build the overpass? Cool...

WSDOT said...

Brian Lee, yes, winter solstice 2018 is Friday, Dec. 21. Construction to build McKinley Bridge pier 2 began in September 2017. Girders and form work on the first section were finished in December of 2017. In order to access the workzone to build pier 3, crews have to move shift southbound traffic over on to a newly realigned southbound I-5. Weather permitting, this traffic shift is scheduled to occur the first week of April. You can see photos of this project on WSDOT’s Flickr Account, linked here:

Cerebral Paul Z said...

You guys don't get enough credit for the work you do. I love you for it though, don't listen to Mr Armchair Quarterback up there.
I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE the way it was set up last time to favor zipper merge. If the general public would take a second to "learn the art of how traffic flows" they would be able to avoid a lot of nonconstructive anger.

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