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Milestones on the horizon for I-5 project in Tacoma

(File, Associated Press)

Four years of work remains, but drivers will soon to start to see the fruits of 17 years of construction on I-5 through Tacoma.

The new northbound Puyallup River Bridge should open to all drivers in May. That is a huge step forward for the HOV widening project. But it’s not the only change.

The horrible, temporary, collector-distributor lane on southbound I-5 that forces drivers to leave the freeway about two miles before the actual exit to Highway 16 will go away in a few weeks.

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“They have just a little bit of work left to pour that concrete and get those lanes striped, and then they are going to remove the barrier and return all southbound I-5 back to its almost original configuration,” Cara Mitchell with the Washington State Department of Transportation said. “All of the ramps have been rebuilt, and they have been realigned.”

Before you start celebrating too hard, Mitchell said one of the most-hated lane configurations will return. The ramp from eastbound 16 to northbound I-5 is going to be reduced to one lane again. 

“We know this wasn’t very popular before,” Mitchell said, “but we really have no other way to access the work zone unless we reduce that ramp.” 

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That change will happen in early April. It will remain that way until August.

Construction continues to move along on the new dedicated HOV to HOV ramps from I-5 to Highway 16. Overnight closures on Tacoma Way began this week as workers began moving girders around.

Work to rebuild the McKinley overpass continues too.

Next year, construction will begin on the new southbound Puyallup River Bridge. That work will take several years to complete.

Construction on this entire HOV project is set to finish in 2022. The projects began in 2001.

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