A bridge that will link the two previously unconnected sides of Joint Base Lewis-McChord will open Monday at 5 a.m., and is expected to help improve Interstate 5 traffic for service members and civilians alike.
Unity Bridge will connect JBLM Lewis Main to JBLM McChord Field by crossing over Perimeter Road, which bisects the base. Construction on the bridge and roadway began in May 2014.
The Lincoln-Rainier Gate will permanently close with the new bridge’s opening. Drivers will now gain access to JBLM Lewis Main by entering Barnes Gate at McChord Field on Perimeter Road.
The project is the latest physical sign of services coming together in the wake of the 2010 merger of Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base into the joint base. Most military operations still are centered on their traditional Army and Air Force halves of the installation, but housing and social services have been combined.
As a result, some airmen live on what was traditionally the Army side of the base and some soldiers live in what used to be Air Force housing. Most services are concentrated in areas that used to be Fort Lewis because there are far more soldiers than airmen stationed at JBLM.
Traveling from one side of the base to the other, however, has required driving in and out of security gates and getting on the freeway — until now.
Opening the connector route “is very significant for our folks who live on the installation,” base Commander Col. Charles Hodges said last year at a meeting with South Sound military and local government officials.