Final push on new I-5 bridge in Tacoma begins soon. Decades-long HOV project nears end

TACOMA, Wash. — Southbound drivers on Interstate 5, forced for years to share a bridge over the Puyallup River with northbound drivers, will soon have their own bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Both new bridges are part of the $1.4 billion I-5 and state Route 16 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) project that’s been under construction in various forms for two decades.

The northbound bridge was completed and opened to traffic in November 2018. In 2019, southbound traffic was moved onto the northbound bridge.

The forced togetherness allowed the completion of the new southbound bridge and the demolition of the old bridges over the river.

Beginning as early as this weekend, crews will begin striping the lanes on the new bridge. The work is dependent on good weather.

“They need consecutive nights of dry weather to get this in,” said WSDOT spokesperson Cara Mitchell.

If good weather sticks around, traffic could be moving on the new bridge by the end of March. But, rain could push the opening to April, Mitchell said.

Drivers won’t be able to use the new bridge until almost all the striping work is done.

That work will occur on a roughly 2-mile long segment of I-5 from Port of Tacoma Road to the East McKinley Way overpass, Mitchell said.

The work will happen at night, typically 10 p.m.-5 a.m., she said.

At some points during the nighttime work, traffic will be reduced to one lane. Ramps will close during the night but reopen during the day.

When it’s finished, the southbound bridge will carry four general, unrestricted lanes of traffic. It also will carry a new HOV lane and an auxiliary lane from the Port of Tacoma on-ramp to the Portland Avenue off-ramp. The HOV lane will not open until summer.

Northbound traffic will benefit from the reconfiguration as well.

After southbounders leave the northbound bridge it, too, will be re-striped for its final configuration. When finished, it will have four general purpose lanes, an HOV lane and an auxiliary lane.

The HOV project is still on track to open in summer, Mitchell said.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.