Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Approaching the finish line on I-5 in Lakewood

By Cara Mitchell

It's hard to believe that in October 2018, we started widening I-5 for new HOV lanes and rebuilding the Berkeley Street and Thorne Lane interchanges in Lakewood. Fast forward 2½ years and a pandemic later, we are near the finish line.
Before and after images of I-5 at Berkeley Street (top) and at Thorne Lane (bottom)

Living through large construction projects like this takes patience. It's a marathon, not a sprint. We've had to endure some long ramp closures, speed limit reductions, and a few snowstorms while raising the interstate 14-feet, demolishing old overpasses and building new ones. While we're not quite done yet with the work zones, we do want to thank residents, businesses, and travelers for their patience.
To recap a few of the improvements made so far:
  • New overpasses at Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street removed potential conflicts between high-speed trains and vehicles, and those who walk or ride. The new overpasses also created room for an additional HOV lane in each direction of I-5.
  • Raising I-5 at Berkeley Street 14-feet to eliminate an ongoing maintenance expense. When I-5 was originally built in the 1950s, the highway at Berkeley Street sat below the water-table. Custom water pumps were installed to manage this issue, and as the pumps aged, maintenance became expensive.  
  • Resurfacing both directions of I-5 and all ramps provides a smoother ride, extends the life of the highway and reduces the need for costly emergency maintenance repairs and unexpected closures.
HOV Lanes
The biggest improvement is something travelers can't use – just yet. Adding a new HOV lane in each direction of I-5 is a monstrous accomplishment. We can't just go out and toss in a new lane. It requires coordination and partnerships with surrounding communities.

The extra wide shoulder you see on the left side of the highway will be where the HOV lane opens later this summer. First, crews are finishing final paving and striping. Drivers will continue to see multiple lanes and ramps closed at night for this work

The sign structures that mark the HOV lanes are expected to be installed in August. Once the signage is in place and final striping is complete, we will open the HOV lanes.
Crews close lanes and ramps at night on I-5 through Lakewood as they layer new asphalt across each lane.
This work will continue through July.

While the temporary speed limit reduction is no longer in place, drivers need to remember that fines are doubled in work zones. Watch your speed and don't look at your phone. Give crews a brake.

I-5 barrier and drainage work
Crews have temporary work zones in place on southbound I-5 near the old Berkeley Street exit and between Gravelly Lake Drive and Thorne Lane to finish barrier and install drainage. We hope to have this work finished in late August.

Thorne Lane and Union Avenue roundabout
The new roundabout connection at Union Avenue and the top of the Thorne Lane overpass should finish and open in late July. Crews are still paving, building sidewalks and adding curbs. While it's starting to look more like a finished road, we ask people to please stay out of the work zone. The road closure signs are still in place to keep both travelers and crews safe.
The roundabout at Thorne Lane and Union Avenue is under construction.

Utility work near Murray Road
Crews continue to finish connecting water and sewer lines near the Thorne Lane and Murray Road roundabout. Drivers in the area will see occasional lane closures throughout the summer as work wraps up.
Crews work to connect water and sewer lines near the Murray Road roundabout.

Landscaping for pollinators
For two springs, we've witnessed a beautiful array of wildflowers blooming along the corridor, which has really brightened the Pacific Northwest gray days. The flowers are part of a pollinator seed mix that we required as part of the landscaping on the project. The plants have different bloom times, so the look of the flowers will change throughout the year. Crews will finish installing final landscaping on the project later this fall.
A contractor reviews landscaping specifications.

But wait...there's more
We started brainstorming ways to bring congestion relief to this vital corridor in 2010. Funding for this project was approved by the state legislature in 2015. And now, six years later, we are wrapping up phase 2 of the overall project.

Phase 3 construction of this overall project will take place at the I-5/Steilacoom-DuPont Road interchange in DuPont. Residents, businesses, and travelers can anticipate construction to begin in 2023.

Safety first
We ask that drivers continue to avoid driving distracted through work zones and pay attention to road closed signs and orange cones. We will continue to share the weekly overnight lane and ramp closures that accompany this work on our Travel Planner web page.