Thursday, April 15, 2021

The return of Revive I-5 means lots of work in Seattle this summer

By Tom Pearce

Revive I-5 in Seattle is back this year. After a summer off in 2020, we have two big rehabilitation projects – one northbound and one southbound – to help preserve our region's main travel artery. Each project will take about a year and a half to complete.

The northbound project will improve traffic flow between Seneca Street and the Washington State Convention Center. The southbound project will replace a lot of expansion joints and resurface a section between I-90 and Spokane Street. Here's how we're going to do it.

Northbound I-5
In early May our contractor, MidMountain Construction, will start work to alleviate a pinch point on northbound I-5. Currently, the exit-only lane for Seneca Street reduces the freeway from three lanes to two. 

When complete, we'll eliminate the exit-only requirement at Seneca and have three through lanes
The current lane configuration on I-5 near Seneca Street (above)
compared to the lanes when work is complete (below).
These animations are not to scale.

To make this work, we'll widen I-5 slightly for about 1,500 feet and shift the lanes to the right a little. This will reduce merges and help traffic move through the area more smoothly.

Another thing we're doing to help improve traffic in this same area is adding a second lane to the I-90 collector/distributor on-ramp to northbound I-5 and install ramp meters for both lanes. This will increase capacity in the C/D and help smooth the flow of vehicles onto I-5. We'll also add a ramp meter to the Cherry Street on-ramp.

The third portion of this project will install an Active Traffic and Demand Management system, which allows us to adjust for speed limits based on the amount of traffic and warn of lane closures. This is the same system we have on northbound I-5 between Boeing Field and I-90. 

Installing ATDM will have the biggest effect on traffic during construction. While all the work is being done at night, when we're installing the ATDM over the freeway, we need to have about 10 to 12 full closures of the northbound lanes of I-5 between midnight and 4 a.m. This means detours via city streets, or for through traffic and trucks via I-405 or SR 99.

All of these improvements will help keep traffic moving through downtown Seattle, but there is only so much space for vehicles on I-5. There will still be times when drivers experience congestion. 

Southbound I-5
In late May, our contractor crews from CA Carey will begin work to resurface about 1.2 miles of the southbound freeway between I-90 and Spokane Street as well as replace 23 expansion joints. If you remember similar Revive I-5 projects from the past, you know what this means – weekend lane reductions. 
Reducing northbound I-5 to two lanes lets us repave large sections of the freeway south of Seattle, similar to the work we did on northbound I-5 in 2019.

This project is a doozy – it will require 16 weekends of lane reductions on southbound I-5. This is a big reason we're spreading it out over two years. Between the weather and major events in the city such as Seafair, pro sports and concerts, it would be extremely difficult to do all of this in a single year. We're still working with our contractor to schedule this year's weekend work; as soon as we know, we'll share it through social and traditional media.

In the meantime, start thinking about alternatives – taking I-405 or SR 99, adjusting your travel schedule to avoid the area between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., or using buses or light rail to get around.

The big picture
I-5 in the Seattle area was built in the 1960s. The original designers expected it to last about 25 years before needing major rehabilitation, but it held up for more than 50 years and now these projects are necessary. 

This year's work represents just two of dozens of Revive I-5 projects we have planned for King County in the coming decade. Some projects are in the draft design phase while others are not funded at this time. These projects include pavement repair, improvements to reduce damage to I-5 in the event of a major earthquake, expansion joint replacement like we are doing this summer and bridge work.

It's a big task and we're going to need your help to be successful. As these projects come up, please plan ahead when you need to travel. We're out there in the traffic too, so we know it can be a challenge. We appreciate your patience!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Spokane: Home of the Zags and five new ramp meters

By Beth Bousley

Spring is a special time in Eastern Washington, not just because of March Madness and our beloved Zags but because of the wonderful climate. As more people head out to enjoy the sun they’ll notice smoother travel through Spokane thanks to the activation of five more ramp meters along Interstate 90.

By managing the flow of traffic onto a highway, ramp meters reduce congestion and improve safety. In fact, there have been 69% fewer collisions at US 195 and I-90 since Spokane’s first ramp meter was activated at that location in 2019.

Together, these six ramp meters will work as one system to manage and balance the flow of traffic in a more flexible, responsive way along I-90 and throughout the Spokane region’s local roads.

New meters active on April 13

The first of the new I-90 meters will be activated on April 13 with the others going live over the subsequent week:
  • April 13 - Walnut Street/Monroe Street eastbound onramp
  • April 14 - Browne Street/Division Street eastbound onramp
  • April 15 - Hamilton Street eastbound onramp
  • April 21 - Browne Street/Division Street westbound onramp

How ramp meters work

Ramp meters are traffic signals that operate according to real-time conditions on the highway and ramp. The signals provide consistent gaps between vehicles so that multiple vehicles don’t enter the highway at once. Devices beneath the pavement track information like timing and speed of vehicles and adjust the signal timing as needed.
The driver will see a sign flashing “Ramp Metered Ahead When Flashing.” When flashing, drivers form one or two lanes leading up to the ramp meter, stopping at the white line or stop bar to trigger the meter. From there it works like any traffic light: Red means stop, green means go. The ramp meter will only allow one vehicle per green light.

Time to adjust

Any time we make changes to highway operations it takes time to adjust and we know this will be no different. Ramp meters have been proven to improve safety and highway flow and we’re confident that will be the case with these new ramp meters. We will be monitoring them closely and making adjustments as needed. We appreciate everyone’s patience and teamwork as drivers get used to the new signals.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Online open house explains SR 164 90-day closure at Pussyfoot Creek east of Auburn

By Tom Pearce

This summer will mean detours for people who travel SR 164 between Auburn and Enumclaw as we replace a culvert that blocks fish passage in Pussyfoot Creek under the highway. To accomplish this work, we're going to close SR 164 for 90 days starting in July. During the closure, we will build a bridge over the creek and ravine to open up 9.3 miles of additional habitat for migratory and native fish.

This section of SR 164 is on Muckleshoot Indian tribal land, so we've worked closely with the tribe over the years to plan for this work and the necessary detours. Right now, we have an online open house available where you can learn more about the project and ask questions. Please have a look. We'd like to hear from you.

Partnering for success
Whenever we do a project one of our goals is to be sensitive to tribal and local concerns. While the highway closure is in July, we're going to start work on this project in early June. Our June work will involve clearing a section of the ravine where crews will work to prepare for the bridge-building. This work takes place off of SR 164 and should not cause traffic delays.
Pussyfoot Creek is at the bottom of a ravine under SR 164.

Throughout this project, we will have a Muckleshoot representative on hand in case our contractor crews from Rodarte Inc. come across sensitive areas. It is important to us to be sure the tribe approves of the way we treat their land.

Live Nation, which operates the White River Amphitheater, is another key stakeholder. The amphitheater is about a half-mile from the work zone. Because of COVID-19, we don't yet know what events or crowds will look like this summer; but we are working with Live Nation and have committed to provide access to the site for any events that are scheduled. We also won't do noisy work that could interfere with their events.
Trucks will use SR 169 and Southeast 400th Street to bypass the work zone.

Then of course there is the everyday traffic. We established separate detours for big trucks and passenger vehicles. A lot of roads in this area are very narrow with no shoulder. These roads have enough room for cars, vans and motorcycles, but a couple of 18-wheelers crossing paths on them could be a serious test of driver skills.

It's always a challenge to close a main highway for an extended period. We understand detours can be an inconvenience. We appreciate your patience as we undertake this important work that will expand habitat for coho salmon, steelhead and coastal cutthroat trout. More habitat will hopefully lead to more fish for commercial and sport fishers. It also can improve the broader ecosystem. This may sound like it is just more road construction, but it will help improve local waterways and the Salish Sea. We hope you will agree, that is worth a little inconvenience.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Rinse and repeat: Tacoma traffic shift, demolition, paving

Update: Apr. 8, 2021
Due to weather, Atkinson Construction will now close the Portland Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-5 starting at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 10. The ramp will remain closed until 6 a.m. Monday, April 12.
By Cara Mitchell

If it seems like we've done this before, we have. The art of replacing the 1960s era roadway surface on Interstate 5 in Tacoma involves a few key ingredients: 
  1. Move travel lanes to another section of the highway so a new work zone is created 
  2. Tear out the old roadway
  3. Rebuild the roadway so it matches the new alignment with new drainage and newly installed foundations for new signs 
  4. Install the new roadway surface
  5. Move travelers onto the newly resurfaced highway
In February we shared a blog about how our contractor, Atkinson Construction, had to shift the southbound I-5 exit 133 to Tacoma's city center two miles away from where travelers normally would take the exit. We promised this was a temporary change and we're sticking to that promise.

Over the weekend of April 9-12, the contractor will again shift traffic to accommodate a new work zone on the outside shoulder of southbound I-5 between the Portland Avenue on-ramp and the Tacoma Dome. Following a weekend ramp closure, the southbound I-5 exit 133 to Tacoma's city center will move back to its original location near the Tacoma Dome. 

Opening this new work zone gives crews the space to replace another section of the existing aging roadway, drill foundations for overhead sign structures, and install drainage and barrier. 

Putting the traffic shift in place will require a weekend closure of the Portland Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-5 from 10 p.m. Friday, April 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 12. This weekend ramp closure is necessary to connect the on-ramp to the new pavement on southbound I-5. This work is weather dependent so the dates could change.

If all goes as planned, Tacoma commuters will see three things Monday morning:
  • The Portland Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-5 reopened
  • The southbound I-5 exit 133 to I-705 and State Route 7 will be back in its original location near the Tacoma Dome
  • Drivers headed to southbound I-5 from Port of Tacoma Road or SR 167/Bay Street will merge with the mainline at a new location. 
This traffic shift will be in place until mid-June.

What happens next?

We may sound like a broken record at this point, but around mid-June, another traffic shift will occur to move the work zone to the center median of I-5. This new work zone gives crews room to finish the median barrier, drill foundations for overhead sign structures, and set the last set of columns in the middle of I-5 for the new East L Street bridge. 

There will also be a long-term ramp closure we want to give you fair warning about. 

The Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 will close for up to 15 days in August. This closure is needed so crews can realign the ramp to match the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. We will share more information on the specific timing of this ramp closure and the detour that will be in place on the project web page and on in the weeks ahead. 

Stay safe

We know these shifts can take a little getting used to. We'd like to ask you to please continue to watch your speed in work zones to give construction crews the room they need to get this work done. Keeping your eyes on the road and slowing down helps keep you, our crews, and other drivers safe.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Work Zone Awareness: This month, and every month, please help us keep our workers and our roadways safe

By Barbara LaBoe

Many of us spent part of 2020 working from home offices – or makeshift dining rooms – as much of our world shut down. But that wasn't the case for our frontline workers who were still on roadways, ferries and work zones.

They stayed on the job to keep essential travelers and freight haulers safe but, alarmingly, even a massive drop in travel didn't eliminate the work zone dangers our crews faced.

In pre-pandemic 2019 there were 1,672 collisions within work zones or backups caused by work zones. In 2020 – even with far fewer vehicles on roadways and many construction projects paused – there were still 1,128 work zone crashes, including several fatal crashes. Crews also reported vehicles going well above speed limits – in excess of 100 mph – as they passed dangerously close to people working on roadway shoulders.

That's why we're spending the month of April reminding everyone why we need their help keeping our workers – and everyone on the road – safe in work zones. National Work Zone Awareness Week takes place April 26-30 but this is such a crucial issue we'll spend the entire month highlighting the issue – as well as periodic reminders throughout the year.
Our crews work just feet from active traffic to repair or improve travel – please help us keep them safe by
slowing down and staying alert near any work zone.
Sobering statistics

Our workers are out there making travel safe for everyone in the state, but far too often they're injured or have dangerous near misses while just trying to do their job. It's hard to find a highway maintenance worker who hasn't been injured or had to jump out of the way to avoid being struck by a vehicle. Some injuries can take months or even years to recover from and some prevent workers from ever returning to these assignments.

Even worse are the workers who don't survive. Since 1950, 60 of our workers have been killed on the job, the vast majority in a roadway work zone. Even one death is too many and every one of our fallen workers left behind family, friends and co-workers who miss them to this day.

They also bear the brunt of travelers frustrated with construction or work zone delays and have been cursed at and had things thrown at them. Please be patient with roadwork delays and remember that the workers are just there to keep everyone safe.

We need your help
The most tragic part about work zone crashes is that they're preventable. The top three causes of Washington work zone collisions, for example, are following too closely, excessive speed and distracted/inattentive driving.

And it's not just the workers in danger in a work zone. The vast majority of people injured in work zone crashes – 94.4 percent in 2020 – are motorists, their passengers or passing pedestrians. So it's in everyone's interest to ensure work zones are safe. 

Anytime you're in or approaching a work zone please remember to:
  • Slow Down – drive the posted speeds, they're there for your safety
  • Be Kind – our workers are out there helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic; put down your phone when behind the wheel
  • Stay Calm – expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone's life
Planned work zones often include closed lanes and traffic control, but please also be aware of emergency work on roadway shoulders. Under the state's Move Over law, travelers must move over a lane, if possible, whenever passing crews on the shoulder with flashing lights – that includes law enforcement and fire, highway incident response and maintenance crews, tow trucks, and solid waste and utility crews. If you can't move over, the law requires vehicles to slow down to 10 miles below the posted speed limit as they pass.

Every worker out there is someone's parent, child, spouse, sibling or friend. Their job is to improve your traveling options and keep everyone safe while doing it – and they deserve to return home to their families at the end of each shift. Please help us keep them, you and everyone on our roadways safe.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

High School to Highways program gives young adults a path to public service

 By Angie Millar

Spring break is here for many students, and those graduating from high school – or recently graduated – may be wondering what comes next. It’s a question many of us dealt with and we know it can be daunting.

Might we suggest our High School to Highways program?

It’s a program designed for graduating seniors and recent grads to give them an opportunity to join our maintenance team. We started it in 2020 to help us fill open maintenance jobs in several areas of the state while offering a foot in the door to those looking to start a career.

How the program works

Any graduating senior or recent high school grads between the ages of 18-22 can apply. Top applicants will be selected and interviewed and from that group a handful will be selected for various roles in a variety of locations around the state. They go through our maintenance academy and orientation, learning how to use equipment and perform repairs such as guardrail and pothole work.

Students in the program are assigned a mentor for the first two years, gaining hands-on experience working on our highways. The agency also covers the cost to obtain a commercial driver’s license, which our maintenance workers need to operate construction vehicles and heavy machinery.

These are not internships. Those picked for the program are full-fledged employees of our agency.

Applications for the program are now open through May 18 on our jobs web page.
Those chosen for our High School to Highways program are paired up with
 experienced members of our maintenance team to learn a variety of skills
to help keep our roads safe.

Why we are doing it

Like many organizations, we have an aging work force, leaving holes to fill across our agency, including the always-important maintenance department.

By partnering with Career Technology Education programs at local high schools, community colleges, tribal and community organizations throughout the state, we’re able to connect interested students with a possible career path while helping us develop a sustainable, skilled, diverse workforce. Maintaining a robust workforce helps us keep goods and people moving across our state, ultimately benefitting all residents.

“We want to establish this pipeline so that every year recent grads know this is a standing program,” Human Resources Manager Joelle Davis said. “There are students that need an opportunity like this.”

Looking to the future

Two years ago, four people participated in the High School to Highways Program strictly filling jobs in King and Snohomish counties. This year we are expanding it to include Skagit, Whatcom, Pierce and Thurston counties as well as the Olympic Peninsula and Wenatchee.

It’s a program we’re really excited to see grow, helping us fill critical maintenance positions while giving young people a path to a rewarding career.

Monday, March 29, 2021

WSDOT searching for missing plane in rural Clark County

Update Monday, March 29, 2021 at 10:25 p.m.

Pilot and passenger rescued after small plane crashed near Yacolt Monday afternoon

YACOLT – A Navy helicopter rescued two people Monday night after their small plane crashed near Yacolt earlier that afternoon.

The search crew out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station found the pilot and passenger near Jack Mountain. The single-engine plane was unable to maintain altitude while flying from Bend, Oregon to the Tacoma Narrows Airport near Gig Harbor Monday afternoon. The plane is registered out of Vashon Island but names and other details of the pilot and passenger were not immediately available Monday night.

The pilot was speaking to air traffic control in Portland and alerted them when the plane’s engine started running rough and the aircraft was losing altitude. Voice and radar signals were eventually lost, but the last-known signal gave search crews a good target for which to search.

The Navy crew found the Piper around 9:30 p.m. and were able to load them into their helicopter and fly them to the Yacolt Primary School parking lot for medical examination. Their medical conditions were not available Monday evening but they were not believed to be seriously injured and were able to walk to the clearing where the helicopter picked them up.

The Navy helicopter searched by air while the Clark County Sheriff’s Office initiated a ground search. The search was coordinated by the Washington State Department of Transportation, which under state law is charged with the coordination and management of aerial search and rescue within the state.

Media questions about any investigation of cause in this matter can be directed to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Monday, March 29, 2021 at 8 p.m.

OLYMPIA - The Washington State Department of Transportation is searching for a missing plane near the town of Yacolt in Clark County.

The single engine plane was headed from Bend, Oregon, to the Tacoma Narrows Airport near Gig Harbor, Washington on Monday afternoon, March 29. The pilot was talking to air traffic control in Portland and then announced the engine was running rough and they were unable to maintain altitude and were descending through the clouds. The plane’s last radar and voice contact was at 3:47 p.m. in forest land near the town of Yacolt. Yacolt is a small town located northeast of Vancouver and south of Mount St. Helens in southwest Washington.

There is no emergency beacon signal being picked up, but the last known radar contact gives crews a target search location. The search is being conducted by air with a helicopter out of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and on the ground by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

Two people were in the plane, which is registered in Washington. Further details about the plane and occupants are not being released at this time due to the ongoing search and investigation. Updates on the search will be posted on this blog. Email updates are available online via the >Air Search and Rescue listserve

WSDOT, by statute (RCW 47.68.380), is charged with the coordination and management of aerial search and rescue within the state. The agency works in conjunction with volunteer search and rescue groups, law enforcement and other agencies, such as the Navy, in carrying out such searches.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Seattle’s Montlake Bridge getting some serious work this summer

By Joe Calabro

When I first crossed the historic Montlake Bridge in Seattle, I was maybe eight years old, on my way to watch the University of Washington men's basketball team play. I noticed two things: a tall sailboat meandering down the Montlake Cut and the great big towers on either end of the bridge, straight out of a Magic Tree House book.    

Fast forward to today, regular users of the bridge might tell you they notice a couple other things: lots of unplanned maintenance and a jolting drive. 

This summer we'll begin a two-phase project to bring some love to this iconic structure, as we work to extend its life and return some of its former glory. But be forewarned: it comes with major closures.
The Montlake Bridge was originally built in 1924,
but it hasn't had major repairs since 1998.
Why now? 

In 2020, maintenance crews had to weld patches on the metal grid deck nine different times. That's a lot of upkeep and a lot of disruptions for the 60,000 vehicles that use the Montlake Bridge each day. Though this bridge is still safe for travel, our crews simply can't keep up with these maintenance needs. We maintain about 3,500 bridges around the state, many of which were built decades ago and are in need of preservation work. 

There's also an opportunity to collaborate with nearby construction. By coordinating the grid deck replacement to coincide with work that the SR 520 Montlake Project plans to do on Montlake Boulevard, we can limit effects to the community. If we were to postpone this work, we wouldn't get the same benefit.

Phase 1 means a month-long closure in August

Phase 1 of this project will replace all 84 panels of the bridge's metal grid deck, work that was last done more than 20 years ago. Construction crews will also replace two expansion joints. 

Here's the rub: to tackle this level of work, we need a month-long, around-the-clock closure of the bridge to vehicle traffic in August. We're targeting a timeframe of Aug. 9 to Sept. 3, fitting this closure between the end of Seafair and the start of the Labor Day weekend. The pedestrian pathways will stay open and boat traffic will be maintained. For the safety of workers and travelers, vehicles will be prohibited. Yes, I know — it's far from ideal, but this work can't wait any longer. 
One of several repairs that maintenance crews made
to the bridge deck in the last year.
Phase 2: Mechanical rehabilitation

Once the deck is replaced, crews will begin rehabilitating the bridge's mechanical systems. The Montlake Bridge is a bascule bridge; each end opens for boat traffic as needed. Key components need to be replaced to ensure the bridge opens and closes as it's supposed to. Replacing the worn 25-year-old center lock will keep each side of the bridge in alignment, making for a smooth ride and minimizing stress on the movable spans. This work will take up to five weekends this fall. During those weekends, the bridge will be in the raised position, restricting access to anyone walking, rolling or driving.

Here's what you can expect, however you travel:

Walking or rolling: If you typically spend sunny days walking or rolling over the Montlake Cut, your August plans don't need to change. The pedestrian pathways on the east and west sides will stay open as crews replace the grid deck. In the fall, the pathways will be closed for as many as five weekends during the mechanical rehabilitation work. 
Approximately 60,000 vehicles and hundreds of pedestrians
and bicyclists use the Montlake Bridge each day.
Driving or using transit: Vehicle traffic will be prohibited during both phases of work on the Montlake Bridge. Drivers will be detoured to State Route 520 and Interstate 5. Transit will use the same detour or the University Bridge, depending on the route. King County Metro's trip planner and service advisory page will help you get around. 

Boating through the Montlake Cut: Since crews and equipment will be stationed on the bridge during the grid deck replacement in August, opening the bridge for tall boat traffic will work differently. We're working with boaters and the United States Coast Guard to work out details that will keep boats moving throughout the August work. Mariners won't be affected during the fall weekends since the bridge will be in the raised (upright) position. 
We're working with the Coast Guard and boating groups to
work out bridge opening procedures during the work.
Let's keep Montlake moving

We're working closely with the Seattle Department of Transportation, transit partners, emergency services, the University of Washington and others in Montlake to ensure traffic flows as efficiently as possible. But it won't be easy. 

To help us keep Montlake moving, stay engaged and start planning as early as you can. We will have more details to share in the coming weeks and months, so check for updates often: 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Coming soon: 3-month closure of Thorne Lane ramp to southbound I-5

Update: Mar. 11, 2021
The ramp closure is now scheduled to begin Wednesday, March 17, weather permitting. The contractor needs additional time to finish preparational work before shifting the travel lanes. We will provide updates as they become available from the from the contractor.
By Cara Mitchell

Yes, it's true. Knock on wood, the project that rebuilds the Berkeley Street and Thorne Lane interchanges so we can widen Interstate 5 in Lakewood will wrap up this year.

The work, which adds auxiliary and HOV lanes to I-5, will require a significant ramp closure starting the night of Friday, March 12, weather permitting.

Thorne Lane on-ramp to southbound I-5
Since November 2020, access to southbound I-5 from Thorne Lane has only been available from the Tillicum neighborhood via Thorne Lane. Travelers coming from Murray Road, JBLM Logistics Gate or the Woodbrook neighborhood are following a detour on northbound I-5 to Gravelly Lake Drive to southbound I-5.

As early as March 13, construction crews will permanently close the Thorne Lane on-ramp to southbound I-5 from the Tillicum neighborhood. This important ramp connection will reopen in its final configuration, from the new overpass, three months after the closure begins.

This map shows the detour route for travelers coming from Murray Road SW.

During the temporary three-month closure:
  • Travelers coming from Murray Road, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Logistics Gate or the Woodbrook neighborhood will continue to detour on northbound I-5 to Gravelly Lake Drive, then onto southbound I-5.
  • Tillicum travelers will use the Berkeley Street interchange to reach southbound I-5, or use the new Thorne Lane overpass and follow the same detour as travelers coming from Murray Road.
Signal timing at Berkeley Street
You have told us about backups at Berkeley Street getting to I-5, and we've seen it ourselves. More travelers coming from Murray Road are detouring through Tillicum and using Berkeley Street instead of detouring to Gravelly Lake Drive. We will continue to monitor and adjust the signal timing at Berkeley Street, but we need travelers coming from the Woodbrook area, especially freight haulers, to use the Gravelly Lake Drive detour.  

Why a three-month closure of the ramp?
Closing this connection creates work zones for the contractor to do the following:
  • Finish the roundabout connection from Union Avenue and to the new Thorne Lane high bridge.  Once finished, this will officially remove the railroad crossing at Thorne Lane. Travelers will instead cross the railroad using the new overpass. 
  • Complete the collector-distributor lane barrier that will guide travelers from a shared exit on southbound I-5 to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street.
  • Build a new Thorne Lane on-ramp to southbound I-5 from the new overpass.

Permanent change to southbound I-5 exits
In three months, a new shared exit on southbound I-5 will open to travelers going to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street. The barrier that is being built will eventually separate mainline I-5 traffic from those taking the exit. Studies show that using barrier in this way can prevent excessive weaving and merging that can often cause collisions.

Anyone traveling to Madigan Army Medical Center, Camp Murray, JBLM's Logistic Gate or Lakewood's Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods will be using this shared exit. It's a permanent change coming that drivers will need to take note of.

New on-ramp
After the three-month closure, a new on-ramp to southbound I-5 will open to travelers from the east side of the interstate. We've previously referenced this new on-ramp as the Thorne Lane "low ramp", and it's only accessible from the Murray Road roundabout. Here is the important part: travelers will no longer cross the railroad before heading to southbound I-5. Instead, drivers will turn left from the new overpass at a signalized intersection and continue south to the collector/distributor lane to Berkeley Street. From there, drivers will merge on to southbound I-5.

This video shows how the new interchange will operate once all the I-5 widening is finished.
We will continue to share the weekly overnight lane and ramp closures that accompany this work on our Travel Planner web page.

As a reminder, the reduced speed limit is still in place on I-5 while crews finish the work. Thank you for your continued patience and support.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Thanking Deputy Secretary Keith Metcalf for his dedicated service

By Roger Millar

For the past five years, I've had the privilege of working with one of our agency's finest. Now I'm taking this opportunity to publicly thank Deputy Secretary of Transportation Keith Metcalf for his dedicated public service and to congratulate him on his upcoming retirement. 

With nearly 43 years of service to the people of Washington under his belt, Keith can retire knowing he made our agency and the many communities he touched better for his leadership and contributions. Most recently, Keith's focus has been on developing and executing the agency's Strategic Plan and ensuring our goals of Inclusion, Workforce Development and Practical Solutions are part of everything we do. Never have those efforts been more important as during this time when we need to address a public health emergency, racial inequality and budget uncertainty.
Deputy Secretary of Transportation Keith Metcalf retired from our agency in late February after a 43-year career here.

Among his contributions, Keith has been a steadfast supporter of the National Highway System's purpose to provide a transportation network that moves interstate freight and regional trips efficiently. He demonstrated that support through his leadership in the delivery of the first stages of the North Spokane Corridor, and by protecting the public investments made in the US 195 corridor. Keith was also instrumental in bringing the new Keller Ferry to a reality, ensuring the communities that depend on this important Columbia River crossing would continue to have reliable transportation connections.
Keith Metcalf had a hand in almost every part of our agency over his 43-year career, culminating in his role as Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

Keith helped me to reorganize the department to better serve our multimodal mission. We created the office of Urban Mobility and Access and the office of Multimodal Development and Delivery, realigning our team to focus on these missions under the leadership of their own assistant secretaries. We created our Active Transportation Division, an organization committed to improving our active transportation infrastructure and maintaining our leadership as this country's most bicycle friendly state. 

Keith has also been a leader and strong advocate in our efforts to improve the department's results in the area of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. He led our efforts to expand the activities of our Office of Equal Opportunity and served actively on the Governor's Sub-Cabinet on Business Diversity.
Deputy Secretary of Transportation Keith Metcalf, who retired this week, snaps a picture during construction of the SR 99 tunnel in Seattle.

Equally important, Keith is a people person. He has shown his care and support for the people of his community and fellow workers time and time again. From being a strong advocate for the annual food drives, to supporting Public Service Recognition Week, to encouraging physical activity by leading agency wellness walks and participating in the Bloomsday Run, to attending staff functions, Keith's down-to-earth manner made him an approachable part of the team.

Keith started here fresh out of Washington State University and throughout his career went on to gain experience across multiple regions and functional areas like construction, design, program management, maintenance, and others. His calm demeanor, counsel, and dedication proved invaluable to me and many others both inside and outside our agency. Keith represented our work to many organizations and forums across the state and nationally.

We are grateful to Keith for his leadership and dedication to transportation for all Washingtonians in this state. Please join me in wishing him a long, healthy and enjoyable journey in the next stage of his life!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Nisqually earthquake 20 years later: We’ve made seismic improvements but there’s more work ahead

Our most visible response, the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, improved safety and helped transform Seattle's waterfront

By Mike Allende
After the Nisqually earthquake, the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle was closed for inspections and repairs, and later strengthened to keep it safe for daily use. In 2019 the viaduct was replaced with the SR 99 tunnel.

It's been 20 years since the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake shook the Puget Sound region and we're still seeing its effects today.

On Feb. 28, 2001, hundreds of buildings were damaged and an estimated 400 people injured as the ground shook and rolled for 40 seconds. While bridges across the region by and large withstood the earthquake well, one of the most visible impacts was several columns supporting the Alaskan Way Viaduct in downtown Seattle cracked and sank, but did not collapse.

Seismic bridge retrofit, lifelines and greater resilience planning

Seismic retrofit work was already underway on our bridges and other infrastructure before 2001, but since then it's increased dramatically, including:
  • We've spent $144 million in bridge seismic retrofitting, completely retrofitting 323 bridges and partially retrofitting another 114, which still need some work. 
  • Working with state emergency managers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), we prioritized our seismic retrofit efforts along a "lifeline" designed to ensure emergency response and supplies can flow into the Puget Sound from the north, south and east. This lifeline identified and prioritized the most vital routes and bridges needed for transport during major emergencies. We are working on delivering a $171 million seismic retrofitting program that should complete lifeline retrofitting over the next 10 years.
  • New projects have replaced aging bridges with updated structures built to modern-day standards. Examples include:
    • The new SR 520 bridge, which opened in 2016
    • In Pierce County, 18 new seismically-updated bridges or overpass structures have been built as part of the I-5/SR 16 Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program and the I-5 Lakewood to Joint Base Lewis McChord projects.
    • Two new bridges over the Puyallup River (SR 162 & SR 167)
The new and more seismically-resilient Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal opened in December and work continues on Colman Dock in downtown Seattle to build a new, seismically improved multimodal terminal. Going forward, terminal repairs/upgrades are included in Washington State Ferries' long-range plans (pdf 11.7 mb).

From Alaskan Way Viaduct to SR 99 tunnel

In perhaps the most visible response, that powerful earthquake also jolted our agency to accelerate existing conversations about how to replace the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct, the double-deck concrete highway that carried 100,000 vehicles a day along Seattle's waterfront via SR 99. A parallel conversation also began about the deteriorating 70-year-old seawall that protected the waterfront's loose fill soils from Elliott Bay.

Twenty years later, those conversations have utterly transformed central Seattle's waterfront. Traffic on SR 99 now travels beneath the ground in the 2-mile SR 99 tunnel,  built to withstand strong earthquakes.

The last visible trace of the looming concrete fence that once separated Seattle from Elliott Bay was removed in November 2019. Seattle's new seawall opened in 2017, built to modern seismic and environmental standards and atop that seawall, the city of Seattle is building a new waterfront street flanked by new public space and multimodal transportation facilities.

Today, the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program is almost complete. The Battery Street Tunnel that once linked to the viaduct's northern end is gone, and the chasm it cut through neighborhoods near the Space Needle is replaced by a surface street. The final project of the program is set to begin construction later this year, which includes a new pedestrian plaza connecting Seattle's sports stadiums to the waterfront.

Looking back but planning for the future

Timelines have been hard to gauge during the COVID-19 pandemic, when weeks blend and a month can feel like a year. But the 20th anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake is a good time to pause and take stock of all that has been accomplished.

We still have more work to do, but in the 20 years since the ground shook from Olympia to British Columbia, we've made major safety improvements across the state to help us all have safer, more resilient infrastructure across the state.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Winter storm February 2021

Last updated: Feb. 15, 2021 at 7:45 a.m.

Clark and Skamania counties:

  • SR 14 - Both directions of SR 14 are again closed between Evergreen Blvd east of Washougal and the Hood River Bridge near White Salmon due to hazardous weather conditions. There is no estimate for reopening.

Lewis County:

  • SR 6 - Closures at MP 34.0 and MP 46.0 have both been cleared.

Yakima county

  • Cleared: SR 241 has reopened near Sunnyside due to blowing snow and poor visibility

For the full list of real-time storm related road closures head to our travel alerts website.

With a first round of snow on the ground and more expected going into this weekend, we're setting up a place to communicate with you what you need to know about closures and conditions across Western Washington.

Check back here for updates on any closure or other weather condition news.

Agency Twitter accounts:

  • @wsdot - Statewide updates
  • @wsdot_traffic - Traffic and construction reports for King, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties
  • @wsdot_sw - Traffic reports for Vancouver and southwest Washington
  • @wsdot_passes - Mountain pass reports
  • @wsdot_tacoma - Traffic and construction reports for Pierce, Thurston, Mason and Kitsap counties
  • @goodtogowsdot - Good To Go! tolling information
  • @snoqualmiepass - I-90 Construction updates
  • @wsferries - Ferry alerts and updates
  • @wsdot_east - Traffic and highway news and information east of the Cascade Mountains
  • @wsdot_jobs - Current job openings
  • @wsdot_north - Highway traffic info for Whatcom, Skagit and Island Counties
  • @wsdot_520 - SR 520 traffic info and construction updates
  • @Amtrak_Cascades - Information and updates regarding travel aboard Amtrak Cascades

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Construction work progresses thanks to crew vigilance

By Hannah Britt

It's been almost a year since our state started experiencing the first effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This meant some adjustments at our construction sites and we are seeing the results of implementing successful safety protocols on all our highway construction projects.

Initially, construction projects across the state were paused when Governor Inslee issued the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order. That meant a temporary work stoppage on 65 of our construction sites. Crews used that time to develop and implement new COVID safety protocols so they could safely restart work and move forward. Today, the rate of COVID-positive tests on our construction projects is considerably lower than the statewide average, and all cases are believed to be from exposure off the job.  
The SR 520 Montlake project in Seattle sat empty in March and April 2020 until statewide COVID-19 safety guidelines were adopted and new procedures enacted to allow construction to resume safely.

Scaling down while keeping fish moving 
During the initial construction pause, work continued on fish passage projects so they could stay on track to meet the deadline of the federal court order. Our Construction and Safety offices followed state and federal recommendations to keep those workers safe while protocols were developed for all construction projects.
The Minter Creek fish passage project on SR 302 in Pierce County was one of the projects that remained active in the months of the pandemic.

All in the details – resuming construction 
Our staff joined other agencies and the Governor's office to develop the safety protocols needed to safely resume construction projects statewide. They had to consider the best ways to resume work while learning about COVID-19 risks and how to mitigate them, all while the world was still learning about the spread of this new virus. 

A limited amount of low-risk activities resumed in Phase 1 in May 2020, and the rest of construction activities resumed in Phase 2 later that month. We worked with our contractors and sub-contractors to implement the Governor's new safety protocols (pdf 213 kb) on each site. Where would the hand washing stations go? How would each employee check their temperature? Who would ensure the protocols were being followed? In some cases, it was like trying to learn how to ride a bike all over again, with pedals six feet apart. The staff on each project worked out the details before crews reported – again – for their first day on site. 

Construction site changes - PPE 
Job sites look and operate a little differently with new safety measures. Crews must take their temperature before reporting for work, wear COVID-19 personal protective equipment and stay six feet apart. If a task requires that crews be within six feet, they must wear even more PPE. All crews are required to attend a COVID-19 training to learn about site-specific protocols to follow the statewide guidelines.
Crews on the SR 520 Montlake project must stop at the temperature check station each day before beginning work.

Making progress while keeping safety first 
These safety precautions are working! If a crew member is exposed to COVID-19, they must quarantine to keep their fellow employees safe. As of Dec. 31, 2020, there were 30 confirmed COVID cases on our construction projects, an infection rate of .006 (six people per 1,000). The statewide rate, as of Jan. 4, 2021, is .034 or 34.2 people per 1,000. We're still sorting out how the pandemic effected many project schedules, but we're proud of both our construction staff and partners who keep projects moving along safely!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Rockslide and unstable slope to keep US 2 Pine Canyon closed

Update: March 5, 2021
The weather has been favorable and our contractor has made great progress removing the unstable rock from the hillside, including the car-sized boulder that was hanging above the roadway. The work is accomplished by manually wedging off this material. Technicians that complete this work wear safety harnesses secured above the slope, and it must be done skillfully.

After the unstable material was removed this past week, the contractor brought in a 144-foot crane used to install rock dowels that will secure unstable rock on the face of the cut. They are also repairing and extending the slope netting that was damaged during the slide. When the rock doweling is complete and new anchors are secured, the netting can be rehung and extended. The repaired and improved slope netting will now cover a total of 4,500 square feet more rock slope at this location in Pine Canyon.

When will the road reopen?
The work currently requires the crane to be staged in the middle of the roadway. Situating the crane takes time to set up and regularly reopening for traffic to move through the work zone would not allow for the contractor to complete the work in a safe and timely manner. Once the crane no longer needs to be in the roadway and it does not compromise safety, we will reopen the road with flagger-controlled traffic during the work day. We expect the project to wrap up by March 24.

Update: Feb. 18, 2021
Recent winter storms have covered the US 2 Pine Canyon slope in a layer of snow, which created safety concerns as the contractor can't determine where the cracks are located on the slope. Work is on hold as we wait for the snow to melt off but warmer weather and rain is in the forecast starting Monday, Feb. 22 so it appears the contractor can get back out there to scale off the boulder, repair netting and clear debris.

While the weather delay has cost a few days work, our contractor is experienced and expects to wrap up work the last week of March, assuming conditions remain safe. Reminder that the highway is closed until that time.

Emergency work could keep highway closed into March

By Lauren Loebsack

We've seen a lot of debris slides so far this year in the wake of heavy precipitation, and the most recent one came early Tuesday morning, Feb. 2, when the upper section of a rock slope above US 2 about four miles east of Orondo in Douglas County fell, covering most of the roadway at milepost 143.7. The slide pulled the cable netting into the slide area and sheared off one of the cable anchors that attach the netting to the hillside.
A drone's-eye-view of the slide shows where the netting was pulled into the slide area and the newly
exposed boulder above the netting at the crest of the slope.

The rockslide dropped about 300 yards of debris including very large rocks, leaving the highway closed. Just as concerning, it left a boulder the size of a truck that is now hanging out above the highway. There is a tension crack behind the boulder that indicates it is at risk of falling and must be removed manually. The netting will also need to be extended and re-secured to the slope before the debris on the highway can be cleared. This will require a contractor that specializes in this type of work.
A close-up look at the cable net anchor that has been sheared

Fortunately, no one was hurt but the road will remain closed for some time. How long? Hard to say. We're moving forward with an emergency contract to get started as soon as possible but we estimate it could take about six weeks, reopening sometime in March. Until the road is reopened, please avoid the area. Never go around road closed signs as they are there for everyone's safety.

But I thought there was a net?
When we install netting and anchors on a hillside, they are designed both to stop smaller rocks from bouncing onto the highway and to stop catastrophic failures of a slope. IAn this case, it did. The slide could've been much worse. But this slope is undergoing a natural process called calving. You may have seen this happen on TV shows about glaciers when ice shears off and breaks away. Same thing with hillsides. Essentially rocks are breaking away from the hillside. The netting does all it can to prevent massive amounts of the slope to come down, but there's only so much they are designed to handle.
The newly-exposed rock at the crest of the slope (red dashed). Note that the east end of the cable net has been pulled from its original location (red arrows). Also note the newly exposed rock block at the top of the slope (yellow dashed).

OK, so what's next?
We know this closure is challenging for people who regularly travel through this area. There are really no great ways around the closure and there is no set detour. We encourage people to consult local maps to determine the best route to get where you're going.
About 300 yards of rock has fallen across both lanes of US 2

Once a contractor has been secured, we'll have a clearer picture of the timeline. We'll update this blog when we know more. You can also follow us on Twitter or sign up for our email/text alerts for updates.
The newly exposed rock must be removed from the slope prior to resecuring and extending the netting (yellow dashed).

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Maintaining our vital marine highway while keeping riders and employees safe

By Justin Fujioka

Safely operating a ferry system with a fleet of 21 auto-passenger vessels and 20 terminals on 10 routes is no easy feat. And for our 2,000 employees in our ferries division, that task is even harder with COVID-19.

Our vessel crews and terminal staff are braving the frontlines so we can continue to provide an important marine transportation link. But riders often don't see the support staff helping to keep people and goods moving across the Salish Sea during the pandemic. In particular, the men and women who keep our ferries and terminals in safe, working order.

We have more than 100 employees at our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility on Bainbridge Island. The complex has 10 different trade shops: electric, pipefitter, machine, sheet metal, weld, lock, radio, carpenter, insulation and shore maintenance.
Our Eagle Harbor maintenance facility on Bainbridge Island

Like most construction sites, the facility was shut down for six weeks from late March through early May because of the coronavirus. Although the maintenance facility was closed, the ferries kept sailing and some staff members were still dispatched for critical work on our ferries and terminals.

One essential job was to install Plexiglas sneeze guards on our terminal toll booths to protect customers and ticket sellers. They built and customized each sneeze guard and installed them in late April through early May.
Ticket seller Lawrence Grohall behind a customized Plexiglas sneeze guard built and installed by our Eagle Harbor staff. Our information technology team designed and implemented the self-swipe credit card reader attached to a selfie stick, which is now used at all our ferry toolbooths.

Once Eagle Harbor was able to reopen, the facility's staff was still not allowed to work on anything that did not meet the six-foot separation requirement. Combined with the closure, this caused a backlog of maintenance work that they're still trying to catch up on.
Members of Eagle Harbor’s shore gang team weld bridge plates during a recent repair job at our Southworth ferry terminal.

In total, the staff at our Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility has completed hundreds of projects since the pandemic began, including emergency overhauls of vessels and urgent repairs at terminals. Again, that's tough to begin with, but COVID-19 has made their work even more technical and strategic.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Plans to reopen SR 112 in Clallam County moving forward

Update: April 6, 2021
With environmental reviews complete and no additional permits required, project teams expect to have a contract available for bids beginning the week of April 5. Project engineers anticipate being able to review successful bids by late April and select the best value contractor to begin site preparations as early as May 3.

Update: March 25
Our biologists have finished outlining wetland perimeters near the six slides on SR 112. We continue to develop plans for repairs and will incorporate geotechnical recommendations that we expect to get in the next week. Our goal is to solicit emergency contract bids in April to complete the repairs.

Update: March 19
The environmental review for SR 112 is complete and project teams are cleared to begin preparing a contract for competitive bids. Upon completion of a recent habitat assessment, biologists determined marbled murrelet will not be affected, as usable habitat doesn’t exist within work locations. Construction could begin by early summer.

Update: March 3
Our design engineers have finalized conceptual plans that will repair six slide sites on SR 112. Since our last update, a sixth slide has been identified at milepost 35.6 in need of repairs. These plans will go to a contractor, pending environmental permits. These permits generally take 4 to 5 months to obtain, however, we are working to expedite this.

It is important to note that during the week of Feb. 15, environmental crews identified potential marbled murrelet habitat that may be affected during construction. We will work with our partners at the Department of Fish and Wildlife to limit any adverse impacts accordingly. No negative affects to fish species have been identified and all work will take place within state right-of-way.

Once the environmental permits are obtained, repairs totaling $2 million, can begin. Examples of the types of repairs needed to reopen SR 112 include but are not limited to:
  • slope reinforcement
  • filling portions with gravel
  • installing guardrail
  • rebuilding some drainage facilities
  • leveling a surface roadway with gravel
We understand the importance of restoring access on SR 112 for travelers between Neah Bay and Joyce. Updates on progress will be provided in this blog.

Update: Feb. 18, 2021
The soil beneath milepost 36.9 continues to shift. The roadway at this site has settled more than 13 feet. Environmental services crews will be on site next week to evaluate potential effects of construction on area species. Results from the environmental review will inform our next steps on this repair. We will continue to update this blog as we know more.
By Tina Werner

If you look up the definition of "wet," it reads: "Moistened, soaked or covered with water." It's the quintessential definition of a Pacific Northwest winter, and we aren't just talking about puddle jumping. This infamous winter weather has done a number on State Route 112 in Clallam County, resulting in more than a month-long closure due to slides.

Our recent challenges on SR 112 began on the first day of winter, Dec. 21, 2020. In one day, high temperatures, heavy rains, snow, and seasonal tides, resulted in our crews closing a section of the highway near the Pysht River. When crews inspected the roadway for potential reopening, they found roadway settlement in three separate locations.

Since the initial closure coupled with increasing rains, five total slide sites have been discovered. Our engineering geologists surveyed the locations using lidar imagery and collected pavement samples to make recommendations for reopening the highway.

As we wrap up January, here's where we are at:
  • Eight miles of SR 112 in Clallam County remain closed from mileposts 31-39
  • Five slide sites need repairs
  • A signed detour remains in place using SR 113 and US 101
  • Temporary repairs require an emergency contract
Five different areas of SR 112 saw mudslides that have kept the highway closed for more than a month.

We approach disaster repairs like these on a case-by-case basis. Some emergency repairs involve extensive debris removal and roadway cleanup, while others need significant highway engineering and hydraulic considerations before construction can even begin.
While SR 112 is closed, a signed detour is in place using SR 113 and US 101.

History of slide activity
SR 112, located on the Olympic Peninsula alongside the Salish Sea, sits on an active slide zone.  Our engineering geologists have documented significant slide activity every 10-20 years beginning in 1954 after the highway was reappropriated from Clallam County to WSDOT in the 1930s. The last major slide event was in 2009. The topographical and geological challenges along SR 112 require a calculated approach to address ongoing drainage, stability, and debris concerns.
Engineering geologists design unique solutions for each slide based on drainage concerns, debris and roadway settlement.

Getting SR 112 reopened
While all five slides created significant damage to the highway, the most serious and challenging repair is the fifth slide site at milepost 36.9. Portions of the roadway have dropped almost 13 feet and continue to move.
A look at one of the slides on SR 112 at milepost 36.9 where the roadway dropped almost 13 feet.

Our priority is getting the highway open as quickly and safely as possible but it's no easy task. It will take coordination, planning, and lots of elbow grease to get the job done. We're reviewing design solutions that will enable us to reopen SR 112. An example of the work ahead includes installing new culverts and repairing adjacent slopes along the highway. Some sections of SR 112 may reopen as temporary gravel surfaces. An emergency contract will be needed to repair the slide sites, with the intention of reopening the highway as soon as possible. This work will start as soon as the slides are stable enough for crews to safely begin work.

Once we know more, we will share updates on this blog, social media and via email.

We know many are anxious for SR 112 to reopen, and so are we. Recent storm damage to US 101 near Lake Crescent, our detour route, has created a challenge we are simultaneously addressing. We want you to know crews are working nonstop on both locations.

Hopefully, the storm clouds will ease in the coming weeks. Thank you for your continued patience.

Keeping our eye on the prize - finishing construction of the Puyallup River Bridge

By Cara Mitchell

On the night of Wednesday, Jan. 20, contractor Guy F. Atkinson Construction finished installing the final 30 bridge girders that now complete the backbone of the new southbound Interstate 5 Puyallup River Bridge in Tacoma.

In case you missed it, one of the thirty girders installed holds the record as the longest prestressed concrete girder manufactured in the United States, right here at Concrete Technology Corporation in Tacoma, WA.
The longest prestressed concrete girder ever manufactured in the United States was installed
on the new I-5 Puyallup River Bridge in early January.

We shared a video of this record-breaking girder being installed during the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 9.
Crossing this milestone means construction crews are now finishing building the bridge deck and advancing work to replace the original roadway surface on I-5 just between the new bridge and the Tacoma Dome.

Change to Exit 133 creates new work zone

In an effort to shorten up the construction timeline, we're moving forward with a temporary change to the location of southbound I-5 exit 133 to Tacoma's city center.

Weather permitting, as early as Wednesday, Feb. 3, travelers will begin seeing new signs on southbound I-5 in Fife alerting drivers of a new decision point for exiting to I-705 and State Route 7.

Crews will move the location for southbound I-5 exit 133 north to the vicinity of the Port of Tacoma Road overpass. This means travelers will need to stay alert and change lanes early enough to not miss the new exit. Travelers headed to I-705 and SR 7 will use the same exit and temporary collector/distributor lane as travelers exiting to Portland Avenue and Bay Street.

Should you miss the exit...

The new decision point is two miles before the actual exit. If you happen to miss it, follow southbound I-5 to exit 130 at South 56th Street and use the cloverleaf ramps to safely merge back to northbound I-5. From there you can access northbound I-5 exit 133 to I-705 and SR 7. While we know this change will take some getting used to, it is temporary.

By moving the exit location, the contractor will open up a work zone next to the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. This change has the potential of moving travelers onto the new bridge by late summer instead of later this fall. The contractor is hopeful that the southbound I-5 exit 133 will return to its original location in a couple months, weather permitting.

The end result

Understandably, changing the location of exits for drivers can be frustrating. The payoff for doing this is the contractor is working towards having all mainline and HOV lanes on I-5 in Tacoma and Fife opened by late summer or at least the end of this September. We know from experience that things happen in our world that may change that outcome. Fingers crossed though, we can meet this goal and bring capacity for all I-5 travelers sooner than anticipated.

We will keep you updated as work progresses. Thank you for your continued patience. Please help keep workers safe by paying attention to the road in front of you as your drive through the work zone.