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I-5 improvement project along JBLM ready for public comment

A $494 million project to expand and improve Interstate 5 along Joint Base Lewis-McChord is moving closer to reality.

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a hearing Nov. 7 to take public input on the expected environmental impacts of the northern portion of the project.

The work will widen the freeway and rebuild the Berkeley Street and Thorne Lane interchanges.

Information about the project and its environmental impacts will be on display at the hearing, and a court reporter will record people’s opinions.

The study can be found at bit.ly/2efARTg.

“Commuters and residents are encouraged to participate and provide comments,” the department said in a news release.

Those unable to attend the hearing can submit written comments at bit.ly/2f1kGIW. The comment period lasts until Nov. 22.

Project manager Bill Elliott on Monday called release of the environmental analysis a “key milestone” in the project.

If all goes well, the Transportation Department will use the comments to revise the environmental documents before submitting the analysis to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

After the FTA signs off, state officials can begin buying right-of-way and look for a construction company to design and build the improvements, with construction perhaps beginning in 2018, Elliott said.

“We’re approaching the end of the beginning,” he said.

That time frame would allow the Transportation Department to wrap up improvements on I-5 through Tacoma.

In that project, crews are resurfacing the roadway and expanding shoulders and right of way in anticipation of adding carpool lanes between Port of Tacoma Road and M Street.

Most of that work is expected to be completed by 2018.

The environmental study for the project near JBLM identifies several typical problems associated with large construction efforts, including noise, dust and traffic disruption.

Another concern is the outsized impact the project is likely to have on the Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods of Lakewood, where “intrusion and disruption” are expected during rebuilding of the Berkeley and Thorne interchanges.

The project “would have disproportionately high adverse impacts on areas with low-income and minority populations,” according to the environmental assessment.

The Transportation Department said it hopes to ease the impacts through a robust communications plan and “direct compensation” and relocation assistance for residents whose properties would be needed for the improvements.

In addition to rebuilding the Berkeley and Thorne interchanges, the northern portion of the project will add:

▪ A lane to southbound I-5 from near Thorne Lane to Center Drive.

▪ A lane to northbound I-5 from Steilacoom-DuPont Road to Thorne Lane.

▪ Northbound auxiliary lanes from the Berkeley Street on-ramp to the Thorne Lane off-ramp, and from the Thorne Lane on-ramp to the Gravelly Lake Road off-ramp.

The southern portion of the project includes adding a lane to northbound I-5 from Mounts Road to Center Drive. That work, subject to a separate environmental review, could begin as early as March, Elliott said.

The overall project is being paid for from an 11.9-cent-a-gallon gas-tax increase approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in July 2015.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

If you go

A hearing on a project to expand and improve Interstate 5 along Joint Base Lewis-McChord will be from 4-6:30 p.m. Nov. 7 at McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park Technical College, 4500 Steilacoom Boulevard SW in Lakewood.

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