One of Lakewood’s worst traffic bottlenecks could see some relief by the end of next month.
Contractors are wrapping up work that state and city officials say will help ease the drive over the Freedom Bridge, the stretch of Berkeley Street that spans Interstate 5 and provides access to Army Madigan Medical Center.
They poured concrete for a third lane over the bridge last week, which was the last bit of concrete needed for the bridge surface.
More than 14,000 vehicles a day travel eastbound across the bridge, according to Lakewood records. Vehicles often jam up on the two-lane span, leading to backups that can spill onto I-5 and into the Tillicum area.
“In the morning, this ramp gets pretty backed up with people trying to get to Madigan,” said Gaius Sanoy, project engineer for the state Department of Transportation.
The work, which began in October, is funded by a $5.7 million U.S. Department of Defense grant That Lakewood received in 2011 to help relieve traffic congestion around Madigan.
The improvements include adding:
▪ A third lane to the bridge to allow two eastbound lanes toward Madigan.
▪ A second left-hand turn lane at the Berkeley Street exit from southbound I-5.
▪ Improvements to the railroad crossing west of the bridge, including new signals and the addition of crossing arms.
▪ Better sidewalks and railings for pedestrians.
▪ Adding a right-turn lane at the Berkeley Street exit from northbound I-5.
Most of the improvements are meant to be temporary because the Transportation Department plans to tear down and replace the bridge in the next decade to widen I-5 through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord corridor.
Lakewood Public Works Director Don Wickstrom said the expenditure on the current improvement still is “money well spent” because “it provides immediate relief to the I-5 corridor.”