Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Final major changes for I-5 project in Tacoma coming up

Update: Friday, June 17

The overnight closure of southbound I-5 scheduled for Wednesday, June 22 is canceled. Drivers will still see overnight lane closures on both northbound and southbound I-5 during overnight hours from June 21-24. The full nighttime closure of northbound I-5 for Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 is still scheduled. We are watching the weather and will provide updates if anything changes.

Several overnight ramp closures will be in place the night of June 24 and June 25. Please check the statewide travel map for updated information.


By Cara Mitchell

Buckle up and get ready for final changes to Interstate 5 in Tacoma. We are working to complete the last of 14 HOV construction projects and as the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road – Southbound HOV project wraps up, we have several major changes coming up that drivers will want to plan for. 

Northbound I-5 moves to final configuration

Our contractor is getting ready to put northbound I-5 into its final configuration from the SR 16 merge all the way to Fife. What does that mean? For drivers, it means there will soon be four general purpose lanes on northbound I-5, instead of three, all the way from SR 16 to Fife. It also means two new auxiliary lanes will open from the SR 16 on-ramp to the SR 167 exit, and from the I-705 on-ramp to the Portland Avenue exit.

Those who drive this section of northbound I-5 through Tacoma know firsthand that this area is notorious for backups. We are finally – FINALLY! – ready to bring some relief to drivers.

A look at the long-standing backups on northbound I-5 in Tacoma near the I-705 interchange.

When and how is this happening?  This is the first item drivers need to plan for. After 20-plus years of construction, you probably know by now we are going to need your help getting this in place.

Full closure of northbound I-5 for 2 nights

Weather permitting, overnight Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25, northbound I-5 in Tacoma will close at exit 133. Drivers will be detoured to I-705 and SR 509 and back to northbound I-5 at Port of Tacoma Road. Eastbound SR 16 drivers going to northbound I-5 will follow the same detour.

The full closure will occur from:

  • 11 p.m. Friday, June 24 until 6 a.m. Saturday, June 25
  • 11 p.m. Saturday, June 25 to 7 a.m. Sunday, June 26.

If you’re on northbound I-5 coming from Thurston County and want to avoid the detour route, drivers can take eastbound SR 512 to northbound SR 167 to westbound SR 18 or I-405 to reconnect with northbound I-5.

We know closing I-5 anytime is, at the very least, inconvenient. That said, we have an enormous amount of lane striping needed for new auxiliary lanes and a new general purpose lane through Tacoma. We’re doing this work at night when traffic volumes are substantially lower.

The near-final northbound configuration

Just to recap, below is a diagram of the existing lane configuration on northbound I-5 between SR 16 and Port of Tacoma Road. This obviously is not to scale, but it does give an accurate lane count.


Once all lanes reopen on Sunday, June 26, drivers will have four general purpose lanes and two new auxiliary lanes. The northbound I-5 HOV lane will continue to be a work zone for a few more weeks.

We plan on opening the HOV lanes sometime in July, once all median barrier is ready to go, signs are installed and HOV striping is in place. Cross your fingers for good weather, because that date could change because of rain. Unfortunately, it has been very wet this spring and it doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

Other construction items drivers need to plan for

Getting northbound I-5 into final configuration is a big milestone for anyone who uses the highway. That said, there are other nighttime construction closures coming up that we want drivers to be aware of:

  • Week of June 20: Nighttime Southbound I-5 closure at Exit 135 to Portland Avenue: We need one overnight closure of southbound I-5 during the week of June 20 to install a 103-foot-long sign bridge. The structure will span all lanes of southbound I-5 in the Portland Avenue area. Once installed, it will hold three overhead signs. In the past, we have installed these signs when sections of I-5 are in a work zone and traffic has been shifted elsewhere. This is one place we don’t have the luxury of doing that. Right now, we are looking at closing all lanes of southbound I-5 between midnight and 4 a.m. either on Wednesday, June 22 or Thursday, June 23.
The giant structure here is a sign bridge that was recently installed on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge, before we opened all lanes to drivers.
  • Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 nightly closures: In the coming weeks, crews will begin excavating materials from the old southbound I-5 embankment. To move this material out of the construction site, we need to close the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday through Thursday, for about a month. Drivers will detour to northbound I-5 to the 54th Avenue exit and back to southbound I-5. We will provide an update on when these nightly closures will start once it is available.

Opening HOV lanes

It’s really happening this summer. Right now, the contractor’s schedule is targeting mid-July. We will have more information to share after the Fourth of July.  There are some important work items that must be in place first, such as: 

  • Northbound I-5 in final configuration
  • Finish median barrier between L Street and the Puyallup River

Once the HOV lanes are opened, we will consider removing the temporary 50 mph speed limit that has been in place since 2019.

New changes require alert drivers

We are nearing the finish line with Tacoma construction. We need your continued awareness on the road to help keep everyone safe. It can take time to get used to new changes to the roadway, especially on a highway. Please be patient with other drivers. Never drive distracted. Put down the phone. Be aware of your surroundings and the speed limit. Bottom line, we’re almost done with construction on this stretch of I-5 and SR 16.