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60 mph speed limit returns to problematic stretch of I-5 in Tacoma

A semi truck crashed in a work zone in July 2019. (WSDOT)

The speed limit is going back to normal on I-5 in Tacoma, but not for the entire stretch of the freeway.

You might remember of series of semi-truck crashes along I-5 near the Highway 16 interchange during the end of last year and the start of 2019. Several of them blocked the freeway for hours.

Problematic stretch of I-5 in Tacoma sees yet another semi collision

There were also a lot of crashes in that same area that didn’t include semi trucks. Drivers were working with narrowed and shifted lanes because of the work zones.

Cara Mitchell, with the Washington State Department of Transportation, said the speed limit was reduced on a six and a half mile stretch of the freeway to make it safer.

“The feedback we were receiving from the state patrol was that speed was a factor in every single one of those collisions,” Mitchell said.

The speed limit was dropped to 50 miles per hour, but now that the construction project near Highway 16 is close to complete, the restriction is going away.

“We no longer have shifted lanes through there,” Mitchell said.  “We no longer have narrowed lanes through there. We have 12-foot wide lanes and full width shoulders.”

The speed limit should be back to 60 miles per hour by later this week, but only for about three miles, not the full six and a half miles. That’s because of the on-going construction project across the Puyallup River. The limit will remain 50 miles per hour through that construction zone.

“That’s where we still have shifted lanes, narrow lanes and narrow shoulders,” Mitchell said.

For southbound drivers, the 50 mile per hour zone will start in the same place it has since April, but it will go back up to 60 miles per hour by the downtown exits. The northbound restricted speed zone will start about the Highway 16 merge and continue at Port of Tacoma Road.

Mitchell said we still have about two years of work left on the southbound Puyallup River Bridge before that project is complete.

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