New overpass could be game changer for commuters stuck in I-5 traffic near JBLM
This year is going to be a huge year for I-5 commuters through Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Drivers need to prepare for moving lanes, closures, and some major milestones.
For more than a year, I-5 drivers have been dealing with disruptions between Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street. The Washington State Department of Transportation is widening the freeway through JBLM, but to make that happen, it had to replace the overpasses at both interchanges. If the weather cooperates, the new Berkeley overpass could open to drivers soon.
“The process of getting Berkeley open has to go through three different stages of closures,” said WSDOT’s Cara Mitchell. “There is going to be some modifications, starting as early as next week through January into February, and potentially into the first week of March, to get Berkeley open.”
A lot of the timing is dependent on the weather.
The Berkeley overpass is going to change the game for commuters, because it will take drivers up and over the railroad tracks. Currently, the exit backs up onto I-5 whenever a train passes. Mitchell said the backups will disappear with this improvement.
“To have an overpass that takes you over the rail line and connects to Madigan and connects to Tillicum and connects to Camp Murray — it really opens things up and gives much more capacity and a lot more movement for commuters,” Mitchell said.
As Berkeley prepares to open, work continues a mile north at Thorne Lane, where another new overpass is under construction.
“All of the girders for the two new overpass there have been installed, and the roadway for one of the overpasses is completely finished and installed,” Mitchell said.
It will take another 18 months for everything, including the new freeway lanes and auxiliary lanes, to be finished, but that’s not the end of the project. The final phase will add capacity between the JBLM Main Gate and DuPont. That project is still in design.