WSDOT begins I-5 widening for future Tacoma HOV projects

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) started widening and improving I-5 from Portland Avenue to the Port of Tacoma today. This “pre-work” opens the door for future improvements that will ultimately help improve traffic flow on I-5 through Tacoma.

“This project sets the stage for a larger project on I-5 that will build new bridges across the Puyallup River for future HOV lanes,” said Kevin Dayton, WSDOT region administrator. “There are several benefits to getting some of the work done early — including maximizing available funds and reducing overall construction risks — and we are going to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

Crews will widen and retrofit the I-5 bridges at Portland Avenue and Bay Street to meet current earthquake design standards, and improve the ground along I-5 to support embankments for new bridges spanning the Puyallup River.

Work began today and is scheduled to conclude in late 2011. WSDOT awarded the $16.4 million construction contract to Scarsella Bros., Inc. Construction in May. The project is funded by the 2003 Transportation Partnership Account approved by the Legislature.

Approximately 196,000 drivers travel this stretch of highway daily. Throughout the two-year project, drivers can expect nighttime lane closures, city street closures, traffic shifts and narrow I-5 lanes at Bay Street and Portland Avenue.

In addition to widening the I-5 bridges over Bay Street and Portland Avenue, the project realigns the northbound I-5 exit to SR 167, adds high-performance median barrier at Portland Avenue and installs traffic sensors and cameras to provide the public real-time traffic information. WSDOT will also build retaining walls to prepare for the future Puyallup River bridges.

WSDOT will have to close Portland Avenue for a full weekend to lower and repave it. The weekend for the closure hasn’t been selected yet, but is planned for either: Aug. 13-16; Sept. 10-13; Sept. 24-26; or Oct. 1-4.

Construction is set to begin on the larger northbound I-5 HOV widening project in 2012. More information about the project can be found at .

WSDOT’s Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program continues to piece together a long-term series of improvement projects to relieve congestion in Pierce County. The program includes the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the widening and HOV lanes on State Route 16, the new northbound I-5 collector-distributor lanes between the Tacoma Mall and Tacoma Dome, and the ongoing work to replace the Nalley Valley Viaduct.

For more information on this project, visit .

For weekly traffic impacts visit .