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Thorne Lane, I-5
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I-5 JBLM work to reach milestone, if weather holds

Design-build contractor Atkinson Construction is getting ready to open two new overpasses at Thorne Lane in fall 2021. The two new overpasses will replace the existing one. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

If the heavy rain stays away Saturday night, drivers will have a new I-5 to drive Sunday morning.

The plan is to close the current exits to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street so workers can re-stripe the freeway overnight. If all goes according to plan, the new shared exit from southbound I-5 to Thorne Lane and Berkeley Street will open Sunday morning, and that’s where the warning for southbound drivers comes into play. If you want to get off at Berkeley or Thorne, you need to use this exit. You won’t be able to get off at Berkeley from the main line. And the entry to this exit is a lot further north than you might expect.

“Drivers are going to need to exit approximately halfway between Gravelley and Thorne on southbound I-5, whether or not they plan to take Thorne or Berkeley,” said Brian Whitehouse, WSDOT JBLM project engineer. “There is now only going to be one shared exit.”

If you’re getting off at Thorne Lane, you need to stay in the left lane and cross I-5 to the east and then cross the freeway again to the west. It sounds confusing, but check out this animation. Once you do it, you’ll get it.

“If you want to go to Berkeley, stay in the right lane on the new off-ramp, and it is going to take you down the new collector-distributor between Thorne and Berkeley and then straight to the new Berkeley interchange,” Whitehouse said.

WSDOT urging vigilance in work zones

Whitehouse said the goal of this project was to remove all the weaving and merging between these two exits, which can be blamed for a lot of the congestion.

“Building that collector-distributor between Thorne and Berkeley and eliminating that weave traffic movement on southbound I-5 should help improve traffic flow a lot,” he said.

By raising the height of the new overpasses at Thorne and Berkeley, over the railroad tracks, it will also eliminate a lot of congestion at the ends of the exits. Cars will no longer have to wait for trains, which has been a problem for years.

If you are traveling northbound I-5 in this area, your drive will remain unchanged, but not for long.

Whitehouse said workers will be adding a northbound auxiliary lane between Berkeley and Thorne later this summer. They will also be adding a northbound auxiliary lane between Thorne and Gravelley. These lanes will give drivers a lot more room and time to merge on and off the freeway, which should also ease congestion. A southbound auxiliary lane will also be added between Berkeley to 41st Division Drive.

And don’t forget about the HOV lanes coming too. Whitehouse said the freeway was expanded in each direction.

“We’re hoping to get this project opened up, 100%, with HOV lanes functioning by the end of the summer — late summer or early fall,” he said.

And that’s not all. After a short break, work will begin on Phase 3 of this project, which is a complete rebuild of the DuPont-Stilacoom Road interchange.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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