CHOKEPOINTS

90 minute delays, 10 mile backups expected during upcoming NB 167 closure

Aug 5, 2021, 5:09 AM | Updated: Aug 21, 2021, 8:10 am
SR 167...
This photo shows where crews are widening northbound SR 167 for a future HOV lane near Algona in King County. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)
(Photo courtesy of WSDOT/Flickr)

You are not going to want any part of State Route 167 northbound later this month. The freeway is going to be closed for an entire weekend out of Puyallup.

Four miles of northbound SR 167 will be closed from 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20, to 4 a.m. Monday, Aug. 23. That’s 55 1/2 hours of closure between the 410 exit in Sumner and the 8th Street East exit in Pacific.

New SR 167 ramp meter should make merge with I-405 easier and safer

This is a freeway that normally sees 50,000 vehicles a day. Even if 50% of those regular drivers choose another route or skip traveling all together, the Washington State Department of Transportation predicts 90 minute delays and at least 10 miles of backups because of the detour route.

“Just because of where the exits are located on northbound 167, there is just no easy way to direct people on and off,” WSDOT’s Cara Mitchell said. “The backups are going to be bad, any way you cut it.”

It’s a significant enough closure that drivers should start preparing for it now.

“Know that this is coming in a couple of weeks,” Mitchell said. “Avoid northbound 167. Try to avoid the detour route if you can.”

The detour route is 10 miles. It will take you into Sumner and up the Sumner Tapps Highway to 8th Street East in Pacific. This will also impact those living around Lake Tapps, who might have trouble getting out of their neighborhoods.

“If you choose to take the detour route, recognize that they are on city streets, and these streets are not built to handle massive amounts of traffic like 167 or I-5 is,” Mitchell said.

What’s so important that the state is cutting this artery out of the south end for a full weekend?

WSDOT is adding an HOV lane on northbound 167. It will start in Sumner and connect with the HOT lane in Auburn, providing an HOV lane that runs the entire length of northbound 167.

“When we add an HOV lane in the existing footprint, we’re pushing out onto the shoulder area and a little bit of our right-of-way,” Mitchell said. “We have to modify the drainage on two of those overpasses in order to put that lane on there.”

Mitchell said a full closure is needed because of the work on those two overpasses. The overpasses could have been used as off-on detours during the work, but that would have taken more time.

“We looked at keeping one lane open to do this work over the weekend, and the backups were double,” she said. “That’s what our traffic modeling showed us, like 20 miles, and it would happen over two weekends instead of one.”

This HOV lane is expected to open in 2022. It will eventually become part of the tolled HOT lane system, but Mitchell doesn’t know when that transition will happen.

WSDOT decided to focus on the northbound side of the freeway first because the congestion is worse there than the southbound direction. Southbound SR 167 will eventually get an HOV lane from Auburn to Sumner, but that is also years away.

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90 minute delays, 10 mile backups expected during upcoming NB 167 closure