The backups on state Route 16 would be bad over the weekend, officials said.
Bad enough, they predicted, that they waited until after the holiday shopping rush to shut down lanes of the highway to do the remaining work to connect the new eastbound viaduct.
But the traffic didn’t back up to the Tacoma Narrows bridges, as they thought might happen.
In fact, the project was finished 15 hours early, and the work caused minimal delays.
Drivers were using the new span shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, meaning planned lane closures for the rest of the day and a full closure overnight were canceled.
Only one eastbound lane was supposed to open at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, but since crews finished ahead of schedule, all lanes opened early instead.
WSDOT said clear, dry weather was to thank for the early opening, as well as drivers who heeded warnings of the potential traffic problems.
“We want to thank the public for altering their travel plans to help reduce congestion in the area this weekend,” WSDOT Project Engineer Neal Uhlmeyer said in a news release. “They played a big part in our ability to open the highway on the new eastbound viaduct sooner than we’d scheduled.”
Many drivers seemed to avoid the highway altogether during the closures, which included reduced lanes during daytime hours Saturday.
“Traffic was delayed last night going eastbound around 9:30 p.m.,” Heather Snell Spates said Sunday via Facebook. “We took Union to 38th to bypass it and get southbound I-5.”
Crews will now focus on demolishing the old temporary viaduct and constructing ramps from Sprague Avenue South to both directions of Interstate 5.
Those spans should open to traffic in July.
Alexis Krell: 253-597-8286