New four-lane bridge over I-5 in Pierce County will open to drivers Monday

PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. — The 70th Avenue East bridge, which is often backed up with traffic delays, will soon be no more.

On Monday morning, a four-lane overpass called the Wapato Way East Bridge will open to replace it — a Washington State Department of Transportation project that’s been under construction for a year and a half.

The new bridge doubles the capacity of the old 70th Avenue East bridge and provides new pedestrian and bicycle access on a shared-use path separated from traffic. The path will open later this summer.

When the new bridge opens, WSDOT will open additional lanes in the nearby state Route 99 roundabout for direct access to and from the bridge to improve traffic flow. The new roundabout lanes replace a four-way signaled intersection that often led to traffic back-ups.

“The two-lane roundabout is designed to improve traffic flow and reduce delay and provides new access and safety features for pedestrians,” according to WSDOT.

On Friday night, crews permanently closed the existing 70th Avenue East bridge to vehicular traffic. The bridge will remain open for pedestrian and bicycle use. A detour route will direct traffic over I-5 via 54th Avenue East to 20th Street East until 6 a.m. Monday.

The contract price for the project is $41 million, and some work is still in progress, such as extending the Interurban Trail to a meet the shared-use path on the bridge.

WSDOT encourages drivers to slow down when entering the roundabout, give trucks plenty of space — by law, trucks are allowed to straddle lanes in a roundabout — and be aware of pedestrians and bicyclists.

The roundabout and bridge replacement project is part of a bigger $2 billion project to complete complete SR 167 between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma.

Over the next several years, WSDOT will build a new diverging diamond interchange where the old 70th Avenue East bridge stood and build two new miles of highway that will link I-5 to state Route 509 and the Port of Tacoma.

This story was originally published by The News Tribune.