WSDOT to begin phased Pac Ave, McKinley Way bridge demolitions this spring

April showers won’t dampen the demolition of a four-lane overpass spanning Interstate 5 in downtown Tacoma. The Pacific Avenue overpass will soon be turned into a pile of rubble to make way for high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.

The bridge demolition is part of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) Interstate 5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV Project. The Pacific Avenue overpass is one of two bridges that will be removed and rebuilt in this project to create HOV lanes through Tacoma. Last summer, local officials gathered at McKinley Park for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of a three-year, $168 million project that will accommodate northbound and southbound HOV lanes on Interstate 5 in Tacoma (see “I-5 Tacoma: WSDOT to build more HOV lanes, new bridges,” Tacoma Daily Index, July 10, 2014). The project will widen northbound and southbound Interstate 5 to four general-purpose lanes and one additional HOV lane from M Street to near L Street. To allow for the widened roadway, WSDOT will replace the Pacific Avenue and McKinley Way bridges over Interstate 5, and build a new northbound Interstate 5 bridge over the Interstate 705 interchange. Other improvements include a new stormwater collection and treatment system, and replacement of all existing northbound and southbound pavement with new reinforced concrete. The project also replaces the illumination system and enhances the existing driver information systems including traffic cameras, variable message signs, and traffic data systems.

Pacific Avenue will close at Interstate 5 on Mon., April 6, and remain closed until March 2016, while crews demolish and rebuild the overpass. During the closure, drivers can cross Interstate 5 using a signed detour route to McKinley Way. Once the new overpass at Pacific Avenue is open to traffic, WSDOT will close the McKinley Way overpass for 18 months while crews replace it.

“We know this lengthy Pacific Avenue closure will affect Tacoma businesses and residents, which is why we won’t close both Pacific Avenue and McKinley Way at the same time,” said WSDOT Olympic Region Administrator Kevin Dayton.

Demolition of the Pacific Avenue overpass is expected to take approximately three months. Construction crews will first demolish the bridge approaches and then the bridge, working overnight hours when Interstate 5 traffic volumes are lowest. Crews will start on the northbound side of Interstate 5 near the Interstate 705 / State Route 7 interchange. Drivers should expect lane and ramp closures on Interstate 5 during demolition, and details of the lane closures will be forthcoming.

WSDOT’s Interstate 5 M Street to Portland Avenue HOV Project is part of a series of efforts under way in Tacoma to create more HOV lanes along Interstate 5. Local officials gathered last month in Tacoma for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of a project that will add two miles of HOV lanes on northbound Interstate 5 in Fife (see “WSDOT breaks ground on latest I-5 HOV project in Tacoma,” Tacoma Daily Index, Feb. 18, 2015). Earlier this month, WSDOT closed a segment of 20th Street East in Fife to all traffic for two years in order to build a new northbound Interstate 5 bridge over the Puyallup River, build a new northbound high-occupancy-vehicle lane, and make other improvements to Interstate 5 between Portland Avenue in Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma Road in Fife (see “WSDOT: I-5 HOV project will close 20th Street East in Fife,” Tacoma Daily Index, March 9, 2015).

According to WSDOT officials, HOV lanes will ensure that transit, vanpools and carpools can move efficiently through the corridor during periods of area traffic congestion.