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Another road closure gets us closer to end of I-5 Tacoma construction

Crews installing pipe as part of a storm drainage system at the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5. The temporary on-ramp will close for 15 days in mid- to late-August 2021 for final work. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT Blog)

The end of I-5 construction in Tacoma is in sight. We’re just months away from opening all lanes of the southbound Puyallup River Bridge and the HOV lanes, but there’s still some pain to endure first.

Tacoma freeways near end of 20-plus year construction cycle

I know you don’t believe it, but the HOV expansion and freeway widening project is coming to an end this fall, as long as the weather holds.

One of the final pieces of the puzzle is to complete the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5. Early Monday morning, that ramp will close for up to 15 days as it is finished. The ramp has been in a temporary configuration since June.

“They need to finish that and get it out of the temporary configuration and get it into the final, and that includes building a retention wall and putting in a bunch of drainage,” said Cara Mitchell with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The drainage in this area around the Puyallup River poses some challenges.

“The soils down in that area along the river are very sandy and loamy, and they move around a lot,” Mitchell said. “You have to be careful about the kind of material you’re putting on top, any type of fill when you’re building down there.”

You might remember those giant geofoam blocks the contractor used in the northbound direction around the water. Here, they will use porous volcanic rocks. This will also spread out the weight of the concrete above because there are existing utilities below that they don’t want to crush.

Mitchell is hoping this ramp closure won’t take the full two weeks.

“We’re not sure that they are going to need all 15 days,” she said. “There’s a possibility that they going to open this thing up a couple days early because they don’t want to work over Labor Day weekend.”

Once this Port of Tacoma Road ramp is complete, drivers will have one last giant lane shift to endure before the whole project is done. Drivers will be pushed to the outside of the freeway so work can begin on the new L Street overpass.

What is that large contraption on I-5 in Tacoma?

“They will shift all that traffic to the right so they can create a work zone in the center median barrier area,” Mitchell said.

That will give workers the room to finish the barriers between north and southbound I-5 and complete the center L Street overpass pier.

Mitchell said all the lanes of both bridges and the new HOV lanes should be ready for drivers in October or November.

“Once we get everything finished, we’ll be able to open everything up into the final configuration, and drivers will definitely see a difference at that point,” she said.

There will still be work on the project into next year. Tasks like taking down the old I-5 Puyallup River Bridge, some side street work, and finishing the L Street overpass.

But this is really it for the work on I-5 in Tacoma. I’m serious this time.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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