State Route 16 construction ahead of schedule thanks to sunshine

Eastbound viaduct through Nalley Valley in Tacoma to I-5 could open as early as Sunday

Staff writerJanuary 4, 2014 

Clear, dry weather Friday and Saturday put construction crews ahead of schedule on the Nalley Valley project, meaning the new eastbound state Route 16 viaduct could open to traffic Sunday rather than Monday as previously expected.

“We’ve been blessed with good weather,” Washington State Transportation spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker said at the work site Saturday. “There’s always the possibility of the unexpected happening, but if all the stars align, it’s very possible we could open early.”

Almost certainly, Bingham Baker said, commuters heading to work Monday morning will experience the smoother, faster connection as they pass beneath Sprague Avenue and approach Interstate 5.

The new viaduct is intended to streamline the merger of eastbound Route 16 traffic with both directions of I-5, and its opening is regarded as a major milestone in the $115 million project.

Since Thursday night, drivers on Highway 16 have been coping with numerous lane closures on eastbound 16 as crews moved concrete barriers, built a short connecting section of roadway and laid down striping in preparation for the opening.

The closures were expected to cause long backups Saturday, but that hasn’t happen. Midday traffic slowed, particularly in the single lane headed for northbound I-5, but for the most part, delays were minimal.

“We’ve been thinking all along we’d have traffic backed up all the way to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,” Bingham Baker said. “We’re very pleased with how it’s working out.”

That stretch of eastbound 16 carries about 100,000 cars on a typical weekend, according to the Department of Transportation.

Tim Wasson, the state’s lead inspector on the Eastbound Nalley Valley Project, said when the viaduct’s mainline opens, the focus of construction immediately will turn to completing the connecting ramps off the Sprague overpass.

“You’re going to see deck pours up there probably this week,” Wasson said.

Once the permanent viaduct is open, crews also will be able to begin tearing down the temporary viaduct that was built to handle traffic during construction, he said.

The entire eastbound project, which will include connector ramps to both directions of 1-5 from Sprague, is on track to be finished in July, Bingham Baker said.

A previous, connected project, a $184 million job that realigned the westbound half of the interchange, took 2½ years and was completed in June 2011. That phase included building 10 bridges, pouring 48,000 cubic yards of concrete and sinking 77 supporting piers as much as 70 feet deep.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693

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