Lanes to shift on I-5 in Tacoma again as work on new bridge over Puyallup River begins

UPDATE June 8: The intended traffic shift that was scheduled to happen overnight June 7-8 did not occur, WSDOT said in a statement. “Weather permitting, crews will try again next Friday, June 14, to implement the northbound I-5 traffic shift,” WSDOT said. Further updates can be found at www.TacomaTraffic.com.


Can both northbound and southbound traffic on Interstate 5 share one bridge? We’re about to find out.

Northbound I-5 traffic leaving Tacoma has been using a new bridge over the Puyallup River for the past year. In about a week, southbound traffic will begin using that same bridge while contractors working for the state Department of Transportation build a new southbound bridge.

The traffic shuffle will leave no one unscathed. All traffic in all lanes of I-5 from McKinley Way to the Port of Tacoma Road will move into new configurations in the coming days.

The lane movements begin Friday night.

The first phase will shift northbound I-5 left toward the Tacoma Dome side of the highway from East McKinley Way to Portland Avenue. Lane widths will decrease from 12 to 11 feet. Lane closures will begin at 9 p.m. Friday.

That will allow crews to repave old sections of I-5 and remove the last remnants of the L Street overpass.

During the overnight work, on-ramps from Interstate 705 and state Route 7 to northbound I-5 will be temporarily closed. Also, the exit from northbound to Portland Avenue and state Route 167 will be temporarily closed.

One week later, crews will shift three lanes of southbound I-5 on to the new northbound I-5 Puyallup River bridge.

One lane will remain open on the old southbound bridge for the duration of the project. It will be used by drivers exiting at Bay Street to reach state Route 167, Portland Avenue and other surface streets. The lane also will be used by drivers entering southbound I-5 from Port of Tacoma Road.

Drivers will have plenty of time to get used to the new configurations. They will remain in place until the project is finished in fall 2021.

The reduced speed limit of 50 miles per hour will remain in place in the work area. The six-mile long speed zone has been in place for roughly two months, and statistics suggest it might be working to reduce collisions, according to the Washington State Patrol.

April saw 117 collisions in the work zone compared to 170 in April 2018. May had 104 collisions compared to 156 in May 2018. The WSP issued 555 speeding tickets in the zone in May.

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Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.