State Route 16 construction will wait until after holidays

State Department of Transportation says major traffic delays will accompany replacement of eastbound Nalley Valley viaduct in Tacoma

Staff writerNovember 30, 2013 

Mount Rainier towers over the Nalley Valley interchange in Tacoma on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2013. The Washington State Department of Transportation is ready to finish building the eastbound state Route 16 to I-5 project are close to placing the final girders and constructing the final leg of the Sprague to Eastbound Hwy. 16 to Northbound I-5 bridge but have slowed construction to avoid impacting traffic over the holiday shopping period.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER — Staff photographer Buy Photo

The state Department of Transportation is ready to take the next big step in replacing the eastbound Nalley Valley viaduct in Tacoma.

But not during the holiday season.

Moving eastbound state Route 16 traffic from the temporary bridge drivers have been using to the new permanent bridge will require an extensive weekend closure of the highway’s lanes. The state has opted not to inflict that on South Sounders during the already hectic holiday traffic.

“Travelers and businesses — we know that this is a very busy shopping season,” Transportation Department spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker said.

But come the first dry weekend in January, crews plan to connect the new stretch to open it to traffic.

They’ve already poured the concrete decks.

Once the new eastbound bridge is in place, crews will demolish the temporary viaduct and keep building the ramps that will connect Sprague Avenue to both directions of Interstate 5, which should be open to traffic in May or June.

But to hook up the permanent eastbound stretch, workers will need control of most eastbound lanes of the highway day and night for that weekend in January.

And that could mean delays.

Big time.

The closure will start on a Friday night, as many of the project’s other closures have, but come Saturday morning, only two eastbound lanes will reopen — one heading to northbound I-5 and the other heading south. On Sunday, there will be only one lane open, to southbound I-5. Traffic headed to the northbound freeway will be detoured to the South 56th Street interchange.

The work can’t be interrupted, which means exclusively nighttime closures aren’t an option for this part of the project, Bingham Baker said.

“We know that eastbound traffic is potentially going to be pretty bad,” she said, adding it might back up as far as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge at some points.

But not during the holidays.

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268

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