Traffic

Tacoma I-5 bottleneck moves north as 1 bridge opens, another comes down

Work nearly complete on Pacific Avenue bridge

The Pacific Avenue bridge over Interstate 5 in Tacoma should be re-opened to the public Aug. 19. Crews hired by the state Department of Transportation tore down and rebuilt the bridge to accommodate expansion of I-5.
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The Pacific Avenue bridge over Interstate 5 in Tacoma should be re-opened to the public Aug. 19. Crews hired by the state Department of Transportation tore down and rebuilt the bridge to accommodate expansion of I-5.

DOT giveth, and DOT taketh away.

First, the gift.

The long-awaited reopening of the Pacific Avenue bridge over Interstate 5 in Tacoma is scheduled for Aug. 19.

Crews poured the last of the concrete recently and will put the finishing touches on the span over the next couple of weeks, said Troy Watts, a project engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

Now, the bummer.

On Aug. 20, crews will close the McKinley Avenue bridge over I-5 so they can begin demolishing and rebuilding it. That will create a new slowdown just a few blocks north of the old one.

That job is expected to take more than a year, said Brenden Clarke, another Transportation Department project engineer.

Both projects are part of a four-year effort by the department and its contractors to resurface I-5 through Tacoma and put the necessary improvements in place to someday add carpool lanes.

Building a new I-5 bridge across the Puyallup River is a separate but related project.

The work on both mega-projects passed the halfway point earlier this year.

Crews closed the Pacific Avenue bridge on April 6, 2015, and spent 38 days tearing down the old span, carting off about 2,000 cubic yards of concrete and a mile of girders in the process.

Replacing the bridge was necessary because the original span did not have enough room between its piers to accommodate I-5 expansion, Clarke said.

Building the new bridge proved challenging.

A 15 percent grade on the span’s steepest section meant crews had to outfit a finishing machine with braces and a special four-wheel-drive system with high-grip wheels to keep the vehicle from tipping over.

Weather was a problem as well, Clarke said, especially that long rainy stretch last fall and winter.

“We had 120 unworkable days because of the weather,” he said.

The new bridge will have a 6-foot-wide sidewalk on one side and a 14-foot-wide sidewalk on the other that will accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, Watts said.

The bridge also will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and meet current seismic codes.

Watts said the bells and whistles will be nice but he knows what people really want:

“Restoring that connection between north and south,” he said. “That’s what everybody’s hungry for.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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