Crews to begin removing trees on I-5 to put in new traffic cameras

First, 500 trees between Lakewood and Lacey must go, then cameras will help improve traffic

Staff writerMarch 15, 2014 

FreewayTrees_S

The Washington State Department of Transportation will soon be clearing views, such as this one spotted last week north from the Mounts Road overpass, to help clear traffic congestion through the Interstate 5 corridor between Lakewood and Lacey. Several hundred trees within the freeway right-of-way will be removed to create clear sight lines for traffic cameras, part of a multi-faceted project to improve the commute.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer Buy Photo

Contract loggers soon will remove about 500 trees along Interstate 5 between Lakewood and Lacey to improve sight lines for new state traffic cameras.

Seven closed-circuit TV cameras will be installed along the 14 miles between state Route 510 in Lacey and state Route 512 in Lakewood. The cameras need clear lines of sight to operate properly, the Transportation Department says.

WSDOT says the stream of live images from the cameras will help it manage traffic and communicate real-time traffic conditions to the public.

Work to remove the trees at nine locations will start March 24 and continue for three weeks. All the trees are within the Transportation Department’s right of way.

Most of the trees are Douglas firs, 4 inches to 2 feet in diameter, said Ed Winkley, landscape architect with the DOT’s Olympic Region. Some cottonwoods and shore pines also will be cut down. The oldest and largest trees marked for removal are next to the Center Drive overpass in DuPont.

“You never want to see trees come out,” Winkley said, “but in this case there are functional reasons that are going to help with operating the freeway.”

The 14-mile stretch of I-5 is one of the most congested in the state. Installing closed circuit cameras is one of several steps the state is taking to make the freeway more efficient without adding capacity.

“Back in 2010, we saw the highway go from OK to beginning to fail,” said department spokeswoman Claudia Bingham Baker. “Congestion reached a tipping point during peak commute. The traffic had gone beyond the capacity the highway could handle.”

In addition to installing closed-circuit TV cameras, the state will place 17 ramp meters and three variable message signs. Crews also built an auxiliary lane on southbound I-5 between Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street, which opened in December.

After the project is finished, Winkley said, the Transportation Department will plant 500 seedlings – 300 Douglas firs and 200 Garry oaks – elsewhere along the stretch of freeway. Most of the planting will take place north of the freeway in the DuPont area and near Marvin Road, he said.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693
rob.carson@thenewstribune.com

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