Construction is back on I-5 near Tacoma with reduced speed zones

Feb 16, 2023, 8:10 AM | Updated: Feb 17, 2023, 8:07 am
tacoma construction...
Reduced speed zones will be in effect on I-5 near Tacoma beginning Feb. 25. (Trooper Johnna Batiste, WSP)
(Trooper Johnna Batiste, WSP)

Tacoma’s 20-plus years of I-5 construction finally ended last year, but the cones are back up again. This time closer to Fife.

The Gateway Project is ramping up.

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Over the next five years, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is going to complete a new SR 167 expressway from the Port of Tacoma to I-5. It will then cross a new diverging diamond interchange over I-5 just north of the new overpass at Wapato Way and finally complete SR-167 from Puyallup to I-5.

Work on that new interchange began this week with the new work zone created on northbound I-5 through Fife. Lanes were shifted to the right, and the speed limit was reduced to 50 miles an hour Tuesday night.

A southbound work zone and 50-miles-an-hour speed zone will go on Feb. 25.

WSDOT’s Kris Olsen said the lowered speed zone is only about a mile-and-a-half long, but it’s essential for safety.

“We need space in the median to build new bridges over I-5, and with the curve and the limited sight distances, it’s much safer for our crews and the traveling public to reduce the speed for that stretch of highway,” Olsen said.

Workers need that buffer in the center of the freeway to pour the columns for the new interchange, and Olsen hopes the public understands.

“You’re not going to lose much time in your travels, so that’s why we really encourage drivers to pay attention and slow down,” Olsen said. “We want everybody, our crews, and travelers, to get home safely at the end of the day.”

This lowered speed will only last a few months, just until late summer, so the disruption shouldn’t be too bad.

I-5 drivers should be used to the lower speed. There was a 50-mile-an-hour zone through the Puyallup River Bridge construction zone until the project finished last year.

While WSDOT is building a new interchange over I-5 in Fife, a lot of the work shouldn’t impact drivers; instead, it will be cutting a path through untouched areas.

SR-167 stops as a freeway in Puyallup. The project was put on hold decades ago, and now it’s time to finish the job. It will continue from the transition to SR-512 in Puyallup up to I-5, joining between Milton and Fife, just north of 70th Avenue in Fife.

This will continue to SR-509 out of the Port of Tacoma. SR 167 expressway will be extended from the Port, blazing a trail west of SR-99 until connecting with I-5.

While this route is desperately needed to ease congestion throughout Pierce County, it will come with a price. The SR 509/167 corridor between the Port of Tacoma to Puyallup will be tolled.

The Gateway Project is also extending SR-509 out of the south end of Sea-Tac Airport over to I-5. That’s what all the construction is about near Kent-Des Moines Road. That will give Pierce County drivers direct access to the airport from the south, but it will also be tolled.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


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Construction is back on I-5 near Tacoma with reduced speed zones