Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Year 2020 – New Lakewood overpasses and ramp connections come into focus

By Cara Mitchell

Update: January 10, 2020
Due to the weather, Atkinson Construction has rescheduled the two-week closure of the Washington Avenue and Berkeley Street intersection to begin Monday, Jan. 20.
Year 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade, and inevitably, new changes for travelers. This will be especially true for commuters who use the Berkeley Street overpass to Camp Murray and Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Over the past year, commuters have watched a new Berkeley Street overpass rise up from shoulders of Interstate 5. Starting mid-January, design build contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction will begin connecting local streets to the ramps of the new overpass. This work involves a series of local street and ramp closures that Tillicum businesses, residents and commuters will want to pay attention to.
The new I-5/Berkeley Street interchange will open in early 2020.

As early as January 13, the intersection of Washington Avenue and Berkeley Street will close around-the-clock for two weeks so crews can rebuild the roadway surface that leads to the new Berkeley Street overpass. During the closure, signed detours will be in place.

Once the intersection reopens, the contractor will begin a weekend closure of the old Berkeley Street overpass, allowing crews to connect the new overpass to the Madigan Army Medical Center gate.  During the weekend closure, Tillicum residents and businesses will need to use the Thorne Lane interchange to access I-5. Travelers who normally use the Madigan Gate will need to use alternate gates to reach JBLM.

At the end of the weekend closure, the new interchange will be open for all travelers, except for Berkeley Street to northbound I-5 on-ramp from Tillicum. This on-ramp will remain closed for an additional 15 days. Access to northbound I-5 will be maintained for JBLM drivers coming out of the Madigan Gate.

Once this work is complete, sometime towards the end of February, the new Berkeley Street Bridge will be completely open to travelers.

Thorne Lane interchange
Once the Berkeley Street overpass is fully open, construction activity at Thorne Lane will notably increase. The existing overpass at Thorne Lane is being replaced by two new ones. In fact, one is already finished. The second overpass that is almost 24-feet tall and spans all lanes of I-5 and the railroad, will have its bridge deck poured starting in March. Around the same time, Union Avenue between Spruce Street and Thorne Lane will undergo a long-term closure so the profile of Union Street can be raised to match the height of the new overpass.

Over on Murray Road, a new roundabout is being constructed to connect the northbound I-5 off- and on- ramps with the new Thorne Lane overpass. Once complete, this roundabout will help move traffic through the area without the delays that the current signalized intersection brings.

It's too early to say when the new Thorne Lane overpasses will fully open. A lot can happen during wet winter and spring months that have the potential to delay projects. We will continue to provide updates as construction progresses.
A new I-5/Thorne Lane interchange is taking shape with two overpasses and roundabouts that will keep travelers moving.

I-5 gets a new elevation
Here's some highway trivia you may not know: There's a pump house on the shoulder of northbound I-5 near the old Berkeley Street overpass that has a 1950's era pump running inside of it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The purpose of this pump is to keep water off of the lanes of I-5 as the highway sits below the water table at this location.

One big improvement we included in this project was to raise the elevation of I-5 at Berkeley Street. Maintaining water pumps is an ongoing maintenance expense we'd like to eliminate. To raise the elevation of I-5 to new heights, the old Berkeley Street overpass has to be removed. This will occur shortly after the new Berkeley Street overpass is open.

Once removed, crews will begin shifting lanes of I-5, making room for fill material to be put into place to raise the elevation of the highway. We will keep people moving by maintaining three lanes of traffic in both directions during construction.

About those closures…
Construction crews like to minimize closures just as much as you. They also need to finish the project. Up until now, the new overpasses at Berkeley Street and Thorne Lane have been built with the contractor closing lanes and ramps only at night when traffic volumes are much lower. When it comes time to connect all the local streets to the new overpasses, sometimes we have to implement longer-term closures. We know it is an inconvenience, which is why we are giving you advance notice on what to expect so you can plan ahead.

There will be a lot of new changes in 2020 for both of these intersections. We appreciate your continued patience while crews finish this important work. 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 www.TacomaTraffic.com.