Drivers who venture through the years-to-go construction zone along Interstate 5 in Tacoma are likely to notice several signs of progress during the fall, state Department of Transportation officials said this week.
The two segments of work — from M Street to Portland Avenue and from Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road — are separate three-year projects with one goal: expanding I-5 to include carpool lanes through the city.
“They’re both in full swing,” said Claudia Bingham Baker, a transportation agency spokeswoman.
Bridges and a wall are being built, pavement is being laid and replaced and partial road closures will continue to complicate travel plans for much of the time from now until the orange barrels and hard hats move on when the projects are finished by mid-2018.
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The stretch from Portland Avenue south is on track after one year, with about 30 percent of the $161 million project complete, project engineer Jon Deffenbacher said.
Coming up this fall, workers will finish the large retaining wall on the northbound side, which has been under construction for months.
That will help make room for the state’s new-pavement agenda for the fall, which includes stretches of I-5 south of downtown and a northbound stretch between Yakima and Pacific avenues.
“We want to get everything done before it starts raining,” Deffenbacher said of the paving.
Also in that stretch of freeway, expect to see signs of progress on a pair of bridge-building efforts.
The Pacific Avenue bridge over I-5 is on track to open in early 2016, Deffenbacher said. And girders will start going into place for the new northbound I-5 bridge that — eventually — will carry traffic over Interstate 705.
The project north of Portland Avenue also will have some visible bridge-building through autumn, said Lone Moody, the assistant project engineer.
Workers will build a large embankment and piers for a new bridge over the Puyallup River to handle northbound I-5 traffic.
“If you drive a vehicle that’s up high, you can see some work trestles down in the river,” Moody said. “It’s quite impressive to look at, actually.”
Because this stretch of I-5 widening started six months later than the project to the south, more of its work lies ahead.
For the next few months, expect to see the cranes off the eastern side of the highway doing groundwork, and other machinery building a new offramp from I-5 to state Route 167.
So far, the entire $135 million project is on schedule, Moody said.
Timing, traffic and weather will make the ease of traveling through the area vary considerably.
Rainstorms caused the Transportation Department to cancel plans for a late August weekend closure of two ramps from northbound I-5 to state Route 7 and I-705.
Depending on weather, the closures might be rescheduled for the weekend after Labor Day, Bingham Baker said.
Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693
The state Department of Transportation regularly updates its progress on construction projects in the South Sound at tacomatraffic.com.