Friday, October 23, 2020

New Thorne Lane high bridge open, low bridge not far behind

By Cara Mitchell

Despite fall's typical rainy weather, we are planning for some big things on the project that improves mobility and safety at the I-5/Thorne Lane interchange in Lakewood. The weather creates some challenges for paving and striping work on construction projects. As a result, schedules change. Never fear though, the work will get done.

Here's the good news: the new Thorne Lane "high" bridge has opened. This also means design-build contractor Atkinson Construction is quickly moving towards opening the Thorne Lane "low" bridge.
The new Thorne Lane "high" bridge opened to traffic on Friday, Oct. 23.

We're not going to sugar coat this next phase of work – it will require some partial closures of selected ramps over a weekend. Once the new Thorne Lane "low" bridge is open, it will be in a temporary configuration for at least six months. Our goal is to keep travelers moving while minimizing closures and associated detours as much as possible.

Setting the scene and what to expect
As a refresher, here's a look at what travelers on I-5 near Thorne Lane and Murray Road currently drive through – three bridges – two new ones and one old one.

Opening Thorne Lane "high" bridge
Shortly after noon on Friday, Oct. 23, we opened the new 344-foot long Thorne Lane "high" bridge that spans both I-5 and the railroad. It connects local streets using new roundabouts at Murray Road and Union Avenue.

For the next week, southbound I-5 travelers exiting to Thorne Lane will continue to use the old overpass to turn right onto Thorne Lane or left onto Murray Road.

Travelers headed to Tillicum can either continue to follow the existing detour on Thorne Lane to Union Avenue or use the roundabout at Murray Road and cross the new "high" bridge to Union Avenue. This temporary traffic pattern will remain in place until the last weekend of October.

Weekend partial closure of Thorne Lane interchange
If the weather cooperates, from Friday, Oct. 30 to Monday, Nov. 2, several I-5 ramps at Thorne Lane will close so crews can finish building the connections that will allow the Thorne Lane "low" bridge to open. This weekend closure will officially close the old overpass.

The weekend closures will occur on the following ramps:
  • Around-the-clock closure of Thorne Lane on-ramp to northbound I-5
  • Overnight closure of southbound I-5 exit 123 to Thorne Lane. The ramp will be open during daytime hours.
  • Overnight closure of Thorne Lane on-ramp to southbound I-5. The ramp will be open during daytime hours.
Northbound I-5 exit 123 to Thorne Lane and the new "high" bridge will remain open. Here's an overview of what travelers will see during the weekend partial closure:

Once the new Thorne Lane "low" bridge opens on Monday, Nov. 2, a temporary detour will be in place for several months.

Here is what travelers need to know:
  • Access to southbound I-5 from Thorne Lane will only be available from the Tillicum neighborhood via Thorne Lane. Travelers coming from Murray Road, JBLM Logistics Gate or the Woodbrook neighborhood will detour on northbound I-5 to Gravelly Lake Drive to southbound I-5.
  • Southbound I-5 travelers exiting to Thorne Lane will turn left and cross the new low bridge to reach the Murray Road roundabout. There, they can choose which direction they want to go – across the high bridge to the Tillicum neighborhood or to Woodbrook neighborhood.
This temporary detour will be in place until late spring or early summer 2021, when a new shared exit for southbound I-5 travelers headed to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street opens. This video shows how the new interchange will operate once all the I-5 widening is finished.
Removing the old Thorne Lane overpass
Last but not least, one week after the Thorne Lane low bridge opens, construction crews will demolish and remove the old Thorne Lane overpass. This allows crews to finish widening I-5 and build the southbound I-5 collector/distributor lane that ties into the new shared exit the video describes.

The old overpass will be demolished and removed over two consecutive nights. For safety reasons, this work cannot take place over live traffic. Just like the removal of the old Berkeley Street overpass, crews will again reduce I-5 down to one lane in each direction. That one lane of traffic will be detoured up and over the ramp connections at Thorne Lane.

The lane closures occur at night when traffic volumes are at their lowest. That said, it is very possible travelers will see miles-long overnight backups during this work. There is no convenient alternate route around this work zone. We need travelers to go early or avoid the area during the demolition work. We will share details on the closure hours as we get closer to this work.

Don't lose sight of the goal posts
With the on-going and never-ending nightly ramp and lane closures, it's very easy to forget why this work is taking place: we are adding capacity with auxiliary lanes and ultimately HOV lanes to improve traffic flow and move as many people as possible through the JBLM corridor. The old interchanges had to go so we could widen I-5. The new interchange design removed conflicts and delays that travelers have historically faced with the existing railroad.  

It takes a lot of coordination and careful planning to complete a project like this, while keeping travelers moving. We will work through this next phase of construction as efficiently and quickly as possible, and keep you informed on what to expect.

Thank you for your continued patience and support while crews finish this work.


Unknown said...

Great job WSDOT! Love the animation video, very informative!

Unknown said...

Just watched the video in you blog. The narrator said the new lane will be an HOV lane in the final configuration. Is this correct? I thought the idea of an unlinked HOV lane from no where to no where had been dropped and this would be a general purpose lane. What's up.

WSDOT said...

The decision was recently made to extend the Puget Sound Core HOV System on Interstate 5 to Mounts Road, at exit 116. The previous southern limit on I-5 was at SR 512 at exit 127. This corridor continues to see unprecedented growth in residential, business and warehousing which requires transportation planners to think more about moving people instead of moving individual vehicles. That is what HOV lanes do – they move people. Our studies continue to show that with operation of the new lanes as HOV, both HOV users and single occupancy users will benefit from the corridor improvements.

Regardless of whether the new lanes are operated at general purpose or HOV, all travelers are expected to have reduced peak period travel times once these lanes open. In terms of timing, it is more efficient to build these lanes as HOV in our current I-5 JBLM Corridor construction projects, which are all funded. Our goal is to have a completed HOV system running from the DuPont area and connecting to the lanes that are finishing up in Tacoma.

Unknown said...

Your HOV decision is very short sighted and wrong. It will be over a decade (probably two) before the HOV lanes can be extended south. Even then you only widened the roadway to four lanes with no room for a 5th. The four current lanes are completely full during the afternoon commute. You are still going to be cramming 4 lanes of vehicles in to 3 lanes. An HOV lane gives you what, a 5% increase in capacity. You may want to move people but the reality is you need to move vehicles. What percent of vehicles are single occupant. I would guess better than 90%. A 4th general purpose lane adds 25% capacity. You need to build for reality and not wishful thinking. A half billion dollars spent to get a 5% increase in capacity. Its no wonder people have a low opinion of DOT. I am sending a copy of this to my legislator.

Resident of Thurston County said...

Looking forward to using the new HOV lanes from Dupont to the north. Thanks for getting it done!

Unknown said...

Who ever designed these exits took no consideration for the people who live in the Tillicum neighborhood. Getting in and out is absolutely ridiculous.

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