Pierce County I-5 HOV lane opens

Commuters in Pierce County got their first taste of an improved highway system Monday traveling in three new miles of carpool lane on Interstate 5.

This high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lane extends from just north of Port of Tacoma Road at Wapato Creek to the Pierce County line and joins the existing Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) HOV system. WSDOT and crews from Tri-State Construction, Inc., opened the new lane after finishing sign installation and striping Saturday evening.

Work continues in the opposite direction while crews work day and night to complete the carpool lane on southbound I-5. That lane, weather permitting, is expected to open by the end of October.

This project began in August 2009 and received $35.3 million in stimulus funding to help ease congestion for 200,000 motorists per day who travel this section of I-5 in Fife.

“This is great news for drivers,” said Kevin Dayton, WSDOT Region Administrator. “From the beginning this project has been providing benefits to the citizens of Washington. When we received the stimulus funding it put about 130 men and women to work during these tough economic times. Now, a year later — and almost a year ahead of schedule — motorists are going to benefit from the added capacity on I-5 in Fife. Drivers started using the lane today, and the southbound carpool lane is going to open within the next few weeks. As we complete our HOV system it will mean more reliable trips for bus riders and carpoolers.”

Drivers can use carpool lanes whenever there are two or more people (including the driver) in the vehicle. The definition of “people” is not limited by age or whether other occupants are licensed drivers. Buses, emergency vehicles and motorcycles can use freeway HOV lanes regardless of how many people on board. Hybrid or other “green” vehicles must abide by the more than two occupants rule.

This work is all part of the Port of Tacoma to King County Line HOV project, which is part of WSDOT’s larger Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program. The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program is building carpool lanes and making other improvements to I-5, and SR 16 in Pierce County. For more information about this project and the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program, visit http://www.tacomatraffic.com .