Agencies prepare to open JBLM Mounts Road gate

Pierce County is collaborating with Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) and the state to ease morning congestion on northbound Interstate 5 by opening a new entrance to the military base from Mounts Road SW.

Traffic in the DuPont area has increased significantly, with morning commute volumes sometimes doubling, because of population growth and the return of thousands of soldiers.

On Friday, Washington State Department of Transportation, the Federal Highways Administration, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, and representatives from JBLM were finishing road improvements, including filling potholes and repaving about 100 feet of road, in anticipation of opening the gate this morning.

The gate will be open in the morning only from 5 a.m. until 8 a.m. It will be limited to vehicles entering from Nisqually Road, coming northbound from old Pacific Highway SE in Thurston County. Left-turns into the entrance and exiting traffic are prohibited.

The Road Operations division of Pierce County Public Works and Utilities has placed signs south of the entrance to let commuters know what’s planned. The department’s Traffic Division is installing directional signs as well to ensure safety.

“Getting this new gate open quickly, efficiently and economically has been a great collaboration between many agencies working toward one goal,” said Brian Ziegler, Public Works and Utilities director. “We’re hopeful that the opening will get JBLM personnel where they need to be on time, and that it will free up freeway lanes northbound for people traveling beyond the base.”

The Mounts Road gate, which is about 1 mile south of the weigh station on I-5, has traditionally been used for access to military training areas, not for regular access to the base. JBLM is taking steps to provide gate-security staff and an additional checkpoint inside the base.

The new Mounts Road entrance is just one of the many strategies participating agencies are using to keep traffic flowing in the South Sound area. WSDOT recently improved signal timing at the DuPont/Steilacoom and Nisqually interchanges, added more incident-response crews to clear disabled vehicles and improved the interchange at Center Drive.

Federal, state and county officials are continuing to collaborate to improve mobility in the I-5 corridor through JBLM as part of a Defense Department-funded Office of Economic Adjustment Study. The study was completed this month and developed growth projections, determined the scope of needs and provided preliminary improvement recommendations.
The county is asking for patience until more improvements are made. Ride-sharing and public transportation also provides an economical alternative to commuting, and can help ease congestion on the subject roadways.