The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced Thursday immediate actions are under way to help ease congestion motorists are currently experiencing on northbound Interstate 5 between Lacey and DuPont. Those actions include improving signal timing at DuPont/Steilacoom and Nisqually interchanges, adding more WSDOT incident response crews to quickly clear disabled vehicles in the area, and working closely with personnel from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to coordinate other congestion-reducing efforts.
Recently numerous drivers have reported to WSDOT that the five-mile stretch of I-5 between Lacey and JBLM is taking up to an hour during morning commutes.
Both agencies are also vigorously pursuing intermediate and longer-term solutions, including installing ramp meters, closed-circuit TV cameras, and other driver information tools that will provide WSDOT and motorists real-time traffic information and active traffic management along the corridor. Those tools could be installed as soon as spring 2011, or when funds become available.
WSDOT engineers that have been observing the increased and daily congestion analyzed traffic data through the corridor and reported that volumes on the northbound I-5 on-ramps at Mounts Road and Nisqually have noticeably increased. They believe that ramp meters could improve traffic flow on I-5 by regulating the rate at which vehicles enter I-5 at these ramps. “Population growth over the past several years has put us near capacity on this section of I-5,” said Kevin Dayton, region administrator. “That combined with the recent redeployment of troops has ‘tipped the cup’ in terms traffic volumes that can be handled in this corridor.”
Officials at the base concede that growth at JBLM and the recent return of soldiers from deployment are contributors to the current morning congestion, according to WSDOT. Base officials have convened a working group to recommend immediate actions that could further ease traffic congestion. JBLM officials are also looking for ways to mitigate the base’s impact on traffic. The base has participated in a Department of Defense (DOD)-funded regional traffic study and a DOD-funded study to identify and mitigate issues associated with the base’s growth. WSDOT and local municipalities have all taken part in the efforts. Together, the agencies have applied for a grant to take this study to the next level.
“We have an outstanding partnership with JBLM, working traffic-related issues,” said Kevin Dayton, “We’re continuing this partnership as we look for immediate and long term solutions to our collective transportation needs.”
For now, Dayton asks drivers to change their driving patterns if they have the flexibility to do so. WSDOT encourages drivers to watch and listen to local news broadcasts, visit http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Traffic/tacoma/ or call 511 to ‘know before you go.’