Friday, September 20, 2019

Getting HOV connections open at I-5 and SR 16

By Cara Mitchell

Update 9/21/19 11:45 a.m.
The southbound I-5 auxiliary lane from South 38th Street to South 56th Street is now open. The left lane of southbound I-5 in that same area is now closed. Westbound South 56th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 is closed. Drivers on westbound South 56th Street can still access southbound I-5 using the left turn lane at the Tacoma Mall Boulevard interchange.

Original Post
Are we there yet?  Well, almost. We're talking about the finish line for construction at the I-5 and SR 16 interchange in Tacoma. Last month, we crossed a big milestone with getting southbound I-5 into its final alignment by SR 16, and reopening the final connection between eastbound SR 16 to southbound I-5.

This September and October, design-builder Skanska is putting the final pieces of the puzzle together.

What's left to build?
Here's a quick rundown of items the contractor is finishing up:
  • New southbound I-5 auxiliary lane from South 38th Street to South 56th Street
  • Final alignment for northbound I-5 and new lane striping
  • Two overhead sign structures that will provide HOV information for northbound I-5 travelers
  • Paving for HOV ramp connections along with a concrete barrier
To get this finished will require an around-the-clock lane closure on southbound I-5 for several weeks. We also need good weather, and your continued patience.

Sign structure construction brings lane closure
A new auxiliary lane at South 38th Street, shown in the far right of this photo, will open to traffic as early as Sept. 21

As early as the morning of Saturday, Sept. 21, a new auxiliary lane on southbound I-5 from South 38th Street to South 56th Street will open. The new lane will give South 38th Street travelers a dedicated lane to merge on to southbound I-5.

At the same time, crews will temporarily close the far left lane of southbound I-5 from South 38th Street to South 56th Street. This closure creates a median work zone allowing crews to construct two overhead HOV sign structures. The left lane closure will be in place, around-the-clock, for approximately six weeks or until the work is finished.

During this work, southbound I-5 past the Tacoma Mall will have three general purpose lanes open, plus the new auxiliary lane. The collector/distributor ramp at South 56th Street will become a temporary through lane. The westbound South 56th Street on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close during this time. Drivers can still access southbound I-5 by using the left turn lane and the South 56th Street and Tacoma Mall Boulevard intersection.

We know that during peak afternoon commute hours there will be congestion on southbound I-5 from this work. We and the contractor are working hard to complete this work in as short amount of time as possible. While we understand closing a lane is an inconvenience, safety is our top priority. The lane must close while we build the sign structure in the middle of the highway.

Concrete barrier work
Now that traffic has been shifted onto the new northbound and southbound I-5 alignments, Skanska is able to complete work on new concrete barriers for the final configuration of I-5 and the HOV ramps, along with final ramp paving. This includes pouring concrete for most of the remaining barrier sections along with the sign structure foundations. This work will be done by the end of October, provided there are stretches of reasonably favorable weather. The concrete barrier work will have little effect on mainline travelers.
The center of this aerial photo shows where new HOV ramp connections between SR 16 and I-5 will connect in Tacoma.

When will HOV ramp connections open?
The contractor will open HOV connections between SR 16 and I-5 once the sign and barrier work is complete, which we anticipate by the end of October. While we would love to have the HOV connections open sooner, some are a part of an active work zone. This would require some temporary barrier or striping that would add more work to the project. No one wants to open something up, only to have to close it again. All of the HOV ramps will open at the same time once the work is complete.

Finish line
That's it! That is the work left on the I-5/SR 16 Realignment and HOV Connections project. We know you're anxious to see this work complete. We are too.

To the 200,000 travelers a day that use this interchange, your patience through all of this has been greatly appreciated. We need your help during this final push to get us all to the finish line.

Please continue to watch your speed in work zones and give construction crews the room they need to finish this important project, and the nearby project that is building a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

Follow the latest closure and detour information for all Pierce County maintenance and construction projects online at

1 comment:

Unknown said...

appreciate all the time that has gone into the planned and construction of these improvements. Blessings, Peg

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