It’ll be a whole new Interstate 5 in Tacoma on Saturday with new lanes and ramps
By Craig Sailor
The News Tribune
The end is near for the HOV and Interstate 5 realignment project through Tacoma.
That’s what the state Department of Transportation is promising with this week’s re-opening of ramps and rebuilt I-5 lanes.
The Saturday construction work will impact evening drivers and comes a week after a failed attempt last Saturday.
“We tried to do all of that in one night, Saturday night, last week,” WSDOT spokeswoman Cara Mitchell said.
Weather and an errant driver who crashed into a work zone nixed that try.
“There was no way they could get the work done,” she said.
Contractor Skanska and WSDOT changed plans for the retry, breaking the work up in to two nights.
The I-5 / SR 16 Realignment — HOV Structure and Connections project began in February 2017. In the ensuing months, traffic has been diverted, detoured and delayed. But this weekend, the hard part is over, the transportation folks said.
Drivers may have noticed newly planted trees in the moonscape that has existed for the past 29 months around the I-5/Route 16 interchange. That’s usually a sign a project is close to finishing.
For over a year, crews have been rebuilding southbound I-5 travel lanes. Traffic using temporary southbound lanes will shift over to the new, permanent lanes on Saturday.
Starting at 10 p.m. Saturday, southbound I-5 will be reduced to a single lane from the South Yakima Avenue overpass to South 48th Street. Work wrap ups at 10 a.m.
In the same period, southbound I-5 exits to Route 16 and South 38th Street will close. Drivers will be detoured to South 56th Street for a U-turn.
City center drivers entering southbound I-5 will detour to Route 16.
Lanes will be reopened as striping is completed.
Some stretches of northbound and southbound I-5 will be separated by tall dirt berms planted with trees.
The new lanes begin at the I-705 interchange, roughly in the area of M Street, and merge back on to the old roadway at South 48th Street.
The new lanes pass over a newly constructed, wider and realigned bridge over Route 16 which has a more gradual curve than its predecessor.
Crews replaced all the original concrete roadbed, Mitchell said. As before, there are still three general purpose lanes. But now, an HOV lane has been added. It won’t be opened for another couple of weeks, Mitchell said.
The exit currently being used by eastbound Route 16 traffic headed to southbound I-5 will be closed and converted to its intended use as a one-lane HOV exit.
Four HOV ramps in the Route 16/I-5 system will be opened over the next two months.
The entire I-5 HOV lane system won’t be in place until after the new southbound bridge over the Puyallup River opens in 2021, Mitchell said.
The temporary 50 miles per hour speed limit through the construction zone remains in place.
“That will remain in place until we have no more work out there,” Mitchell said. That includes through the construction of the new Puyallup River bridge.
Northbound I-5 will see some work in the same area over the next month as crews remove temporary barriers and return lane widths to 12 feet and increase shoulder width. That work will occur overnight.