Here’s some news you probably didn’t need us to tell you:
Congestion on that dreaded stretch of Interstate 5 between Federal Way and Tacoma has gotten worse. And the commute from Olympia to Tacoma has gotten longer, too.
That’s according to the state Department of Transportation’s 2017 Corridor Capacity Report, made public Tuesday.
According to the report, from 2014 to 2016:
▪ The 26-mile morning commute from Olympia to Tacoma has increased from about 36 minutes to about 46 minutes at 7:20 a.m.
▪ The commute from Tacoma to Federal Way, a 12-mile trip, has gone from about 27 minutes to 33 minutes at about 5:30 a.m.
▪ The 5 p.m. trip from Federal Way to Tacoma has increased six minutes to about 51 minutes for that 12-mile stretch.
▪ The evening commute from Tacoma to Olympia has stayed about the same at 61 minutes, according to the report.
In addition, ramp metering installed on I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord has significantly helped traffic in that area, which used to be a major bottleneck, the report said.
The area saw about a 67 percent decrease in congestion in 2016 compared to 2014, partially attributed to the 18 new ramp meters.
Because of the meters, congestion on the commute between Olympia and Tacoma hasn’t gotten much worse, and traffic around JBLM has greatly improved.
The ramp meters, which are activated during peak traffic hours, have increased speeds in that area of I-5 and decreased congestion.
Before the ramp meters were installed, the JBLM bottleneck created a trickling effect as drivers headed north on I-5. Now the bottleneck has moved north, creating a headache near the Tacoma Dome.
Other findings from the South Puget Sound I-5 analysis: Annual greenhouse gas emissions dropped nearly 6 percent from 2014 to 2016, transit ridership went down and the annual vehicle delays increased by 20 percent.
This part of the report focused on Fife and the area around the Dome, known for being major commuter headaches.
According to the report, from 2014 to 2016, the Dome and Fife areas experienced increased delays of about 13 percent and 84 percent, respectively, equaling up to 5 minutes of added travel time for drivers during peak hours.
Most of the Fife area congestion is southbound, which probably is in part because carpool lanes end there, according to the report.
“Construction and temporary lane re-configurations on I-5 in this area led to higher than normal traffic friction in 2016, which contributed to the delay increases,” the report said.
“Delay was also influenced by population growth — the population of the Puget Sound Regional Council area (King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties) grew by 3.9 percent between 2014 and 2016.”
Another factor: Employment in the metropolitan area that includes Seattle, Bellevue, and Tacoma grew by 6.6 percent in those two years.
So, with more people living here and commuting to more jobs in the region, fewer folks using public transit and the ongoing I-5 construction near Tacoma, it makes sense that congestion and commute times would grow.
That congestion costs commuters money, the report said.
The evening commute from Federal Way to Tacoma had the worst congestion of south Puget Sound area communities. That 12-mile span of stop-and-go made the round-trip congestion cost about $1,600 per passenger vehicle a year in 2016.
And congestion has increased significantly between Tacoma and Federal Way, the report reiterates.
“While in 2014 average speeds did not dip below 45 mph, in 2016 speeds were below 45 mph for over nine hours per day,” it states. “The delay increase in the Tacoma Dome area might be caused by the removal of a bottleneck at the JBLM area in the northbound direction.”