Monday, September 30, 2019

One year in: Progress made on I-5 through Lakewood and JBLM

By Cara Mitchell

This October marks one year since the project to widen Interstate 5 and rebuild the Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street overpasses in Lakewood began. Chances are, if you live, work or commute near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you have noticed substantial changes to I-5.

In 12 months' time, contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction is nearing completion of a new Berkeley Street overpass, also known as the Freedom Bridge. Construction on two new Thorne Lane overpasses is also underway.

Travelers have undoubtedly noticed the changes along northbound I-5 from milepost 120 all the way to Gravelly Lake Drive. Crews are building additional travel lanes that will add capacity to this section of I-5 that on average sees 140,000 vehicles a day. The contractor is also building noise walls near military housing on JBLM, in the vicinity of 41st Division Drive.
Widening along northbound I-5 from Berkeley Street to Thorne Lane.

Over the past two weeks, the contractor shifted the travel lanes of northbound and southbound I-5 towards the outside shoulders of the highway. This created a new work zone in the center median of the highway from milepost 120 to the ramps for 41st Division Drive. This work is part of the progress of adding an additional lane in each direction of I-5.
Crews paving during overnight hours on northbound I-5 approaching 41st Division Drive.

Those are some of the most visible signs of progress of this exciting project. Other items that are just as important but not always noticeable are the movement of communication cables that control traffic signals, ramp meters and provide traffic data to this busy corridor. The contractor has had to move this infrastructure from one side of the highway to the other in order to widen I-5.

The majority of this progress has occurred during overnight hours, when crews can close lanes and ramps. We want to keep travelers moving during peak commute hours, but advance the project when traffic volumes are lower, typically during overnight hours.

So what's next?

Berkeley Street interchange
This fall, the contractor will finish the bridge deck and the connecting ramps, sidewalks and install lighting on the new Berkeley Street overpass. Our goal is to have this new overpass open to travelers in early 2020. Opening the new overpass will involve a series of closely coordinated and timed closures that we will provide more information on as the time approaches.
Construction continues on the approach ramps to the new Berkeley Street overpass.
This one in particular is located near Camp Murray.

Thorne Lane interchange
Rising from the shoulders of I-5 and nearby Union Street in Lakewood is the second 24-foot tall Thorne Lane overpass. Construction crews are finishing building the bridge footings, piers and abutment walls of this second overpass that will not only span I-5 but also the adjacent railroad. In late November, crews will install new bridge girders on this very tall overpass. The work will require nightly closures of I-5. All lanes of northbound and southbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane in each direction and detoured using the Thorne Lane off- and on-ramps.  We will provide travelers advance notice of this work once the dates become available from the contractor.
Two new overpasses are being constructed at Thorne Lane.

In addition to bridge construction at Thorne Lane, crews are building a new roundabout that will connect Murray Road with the new Thorne Lane overpass and the northbound I-5 off- and on- ramps. Once complete, this roundabout will help move traffic through the area without the delays that the current signalized intersection brings.

Coming in 2020 – early heads up!
This first years' worth of work has shown that you can have progress on major construction projects without huge impacts to traffic. Sometimes, though, there is no way to avoid a longer-term closure, due to available space or the characteristics of the project. In early 2020, there will be several necessary long-term closures to advance and complete the project. This includes a long weekend closure of the Berkeley interchange to tie in the new overpass, a two-week closure of the Berkeley on-ramp to northbound I-5, and a several-month's-long closure of a section of Union Avenue between Spruce Street and Thorne Lane to advance work on the Thorne Lane interchange. In both instances, detours will be in place. We will provide advance notice as to when this work will begin once the contractor's schedule is finalized.

The new Thorne Lane interchange is expected to open in late summer 2020 and the final traffic configuration for this project is scheduled to be in place in summer 2021.

Please continue to watch your speed in work zones and give construction crews the room they need to finish this important project.

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


Unknown said...

Will the Thorne Lane exit be signed SR 704 when completed?

WSDOT said...

No, the Thorne Lane exit will be signed for the exit to Thorne Lane and to Berkeley Street.

Becky and Jared said...

Is this why my pierce county license regiatration was $500 not sure how a 4 lane will work with the space I5 allpws and what will happen down the line at nisqually will it all come to a halt there and go back to 2 lane bridge? There are a few other spots that just don't seem realistic for widening.

WSDOT said...

You can find out more about licensing renewal and registration on the Department of Licensing webpage.

Funding for this project is through the Connecting Washington Transportation Budget that was approved by the Washington State Legislature in 2015. Connecting Washington is a 16-year program, funded primarily by an 11.9-cent gas tax increase that was fully phased-in on July 1, 2016.

Once phase 2 and phase 3 construction is finished, the additional lane in each direction on I-5 will span from Mount Road to Thorne Lane. From Mounts Road south, I-5 will be three lanes.

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