Tacoma drivers: Expect shutdowns, backups on SR 16 this weekend

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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TACOMA, Wash. - Drivers crossing the Nalley Valley viaduct connecting State Route 16 with Interstate 5 in Tacoma have been dealing with construction-related slowdowns since 2009.  But this weekend promises to be one of the worst.

Construction on the eastbound bridge is nearly complete, but before traffic can cross, some final work needs to take place, and that means moving cars away during the day and shutting down the viaduct completely for three nights starting Friday night.

“We’re anticipating some pretty substantial backups associated with that,” said Washington State Department of Transportation engineer Neal Uhlmeyer.

Traffic will be reduced to two lanes during the day all weekend, with all lanes shut down after 10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with traffic detoured to nearby Union Avenue.

Drivers headed to Interstate 5 will have to drive past the Tacoma Mall, then get back on the freeway, making a giant U-turn of several miles.

Backups could slow traffic to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and beyond.

“We need folks to avoid SR-16 if at all possible," added traffic engineer Steve Roark.

Below is the closure schedule from WSDOT’s website:

* Beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, all lanes of eastbound SR 16 at South Union Avenue will close along with the South Union Avenue on-ramp to eastbound SR 16. Traffic will be detoured through South Union Avenue.

* Beginning 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3 and continuing through Monday morning Jan. 6, crews will relocate eastbound SR 16 traffic from a temporary viaduct onto the new permanent viaduct near I-5.

* In addition to three night closures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, the work also requires unusual daytime lane closures on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 4-5 on eastbound SR 16. The night closures also include the southbound I-5 exit to South 38th Street.  

* Single-lane closures will occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. each weekday on South Center Street, South Tacoma Way, and South Sprague Avenue.