Friday, July 6, 2018

Summertime highway construction heralds final phases of work for three I-5 projects in Tacoma

By Cara Mitchell

Longer days and warm nights are perfect for construction crews to advance work on three of four funded high occupancy vehicle (HOV) projects in Tacoma. Much to the delight of commuters, two projects are anticipated to wrap up later this year, with a third project expected to finish in mid 2019. The fourth project that builds a new southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River is still on the horizon.

Here is a look at what crews are building and what drivers can expect over the summer.

Future HOV lanes and new overpass taking shape down the center of I-5
Contractor crews on the I-5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV project are converting the old lanes of northbound I-5 near Pacific Avenue to future northbound and southbound HOV lanes. This work involves replacing the original roadway surface, installing new drainage and installing barrier. Much of this work is taking place at night, when traffic volumes are lower. Drivers will see single and double lane closures at night for this work, allowing large trucks to make their way in and out of the work zone.
This summer, crews are converting the old lanes of northbound I-5 near Pacific Avenue
to future northbound and southbound HOV lanes.

Crews are also advancing work on the McKinley Way/East D Street overpass that spans I-5 next to the Tacoma Dome. Barring any weather delays, the new overpass is expected to open to traffic in fall 2018. Keep in mind that when this project is complete, the new HOV lanes won’t open to traffic. We need to complete other work through the corridor before the HOV lanes have connecting roadways in place.

Northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge
Now that the new northbound I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River is open to all traffic, contractor crews are finishing the following items:
  • Storm water ponds
  • Interchange connections at East 28th Street
  • Reconstructing a portion of northbound SR 167 near the Emerald Queen Casino
In July, contractor crews finished setting girders for the new McKinley Way/East D Street overpass that spans I-5 in Tacoma.

Crews are also building the new alignment of the future HOV lanes near the Puyallup River using GeoFoam blocks – which provide a lightweight but durable support for the roadway – instead of dirt. These large, white blocks are visible to drivers while they are being stored on both the old and new northbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. This project is also expected to finish in fall 2018.

Mountains of dirt and new overpasses at SR 16 and I-5
At the interchange of SR 16 and I-5, design-builder Skanska has crews building several new bridges and ramps, including a new overpass across South Tacoma Way for SR 16 HOV lanes. This work involves moving approximately 300,000 cubic yards of dirt and building three new soil nail walls to support new roadway alignments.
Geofoam blocks are being temporarily stored on the old northbound I-5 bridge while crews finish
building the new alignment of the future HOV lanes near the Puyallup River.

Increased congestion at SR 16 and I-5
We know the merge from SR 16 to northbound I-5 and from SR 16 to South 38th Street west is slow going during commute hours. The good news is the current ramp configurations are temporary for construction. Once work is complete later this year, we will revise both ramp configurations.

To help 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 the WSDOT YouTube video below.
Design-builder Skanska is building new bridge piers for future
overpasses for southbound I-5 and SR 16 HOV lanes.

When does the fourth and final funded HOV project start?
The final funded Tacoma/Pierce County HOV project will begin in early 2019. This project builds a new southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River and takes approximately three years to complete. In addition to building a new bridge, this project will make the following improvements:
  • Replace the existing concrete pavement on I-5 from McKinley Way to Portland Avenue
  • Upgrade signs, lighting, and storm water ponds
  • Demolishes and replaces the L Street overpass that crosses I-5
  • Demolishes the old northbound and southbound bridges that span the Puyallup River
  • Opens HOV lanes in both directions of I-5 through downtown Tacoma, providing a complete HOV system that extends from SR 16 in Gig Harbor to I-5 north of Everett.
This is one of three new soil retention walls (soil nail walls) being built in conjunction with connecting
HOV lanes and ramps at the intersection of I-5 and SR 16.

Like you, we want these projects to cross the finish line sooner than later. To prepare for this work over the summer, our best advice is to know your alternate routes and check the construction schedule posted at Expect reduced lanes on I-5 at night through Fife and Tacoma all summer, and give yourself extra travel time. Also, be sure to use the WSDOT app for current traffic conditions.


Unknown said...

Great Blog post WSDOT! THANK YOU!

Unknown said...

Good Information, however it is over a month old. How about a progress report on a regular basis.

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