CHOKEPOINTS

Speed reduction coming for SB I-5 near Kent-Des Moines Road

Apr 11, 2023, 5:02 AM

(Photo from WSDOT)...

(Photo from WSDOT)

(Photo from WSDOT)

Another speed reduction is coming to Interstate 5 (I-5), this time near the massive construction zone at Kent-Des Moines Road.

The speed limit on southbound I-5 will drop to 50 miles an hour this month, likely next week, as construction on the new State Route 516 interchange moves into another phase. The reduction will start near S 220th Street and last about a mile.

“We’re doing this so that we can create a larger work zone in the median that will help keep our workers safe and drivers safer,” the Washington Department of Transportation’s Kris Olsen said.

Remember WB I-90 construction backups? They’re coming back

Both north and southbound lanes will shift to the outside of the freeway to allow for that work zone in the middle. Those lane shifts should be completed by the end of the month.

Olsen said the speed reduction is necessary at that work zone to help drivers navigate the shift.

“It makes it harder to stay in your lane if you’re doing 60 or above, so dropping 50 means it’s easier to stay in your lane,” Olsen said. “You’re paying attention to the work zone, and there’s less likelihood that you’ll sideswipe another car or rear-end another car, lose control, and slam into a barrier.”

This is a temporary speed reduction. It should go back to 60 miles an hour later this year.

WSDOT is moving into a new phase on this project, which will extend Veteran’s Drive from where it ends at I-5 to the other side of the freeway.

“The underlying reason for all of this is we have to build a new tunnel under I-5 that will connect the off-ramp to 516 on the west side of I-5 to an on-ramp and Military Road on the east side of I-5,” Olsen said.

Veteran’s Drive will now extend under the freeway, giving drivers another option instead of using Kent-Des Moines Road.

Olsen said this new interchange will make a huge difference when it’s done in a few years.

“This interchange, when it’s complete, is going to offer drivers so many different ways to get around and through there, and that should help disperse traffic and release some of the congestion that people are experiencing,” she said.

Northbound I-5 drivers will have a new flyover ramp connecting them to a new State Route 509 freeway that will take them into the south end of the airport, which should be a game-changer even though that section of SR-509 will be tolled.

I asked Olsen why not lower the speed in both directions through this area.

More from Chris Sullivan: Be sure to smile, speed cameras approved for state work zones

“This speed reduction is southbound only,” Olsen said. “It wasn’t required in the northbound direction. The traffic shift will be in both directions, so we can create essentially that bubble in the middle for that work zone so they can get all their big equipment in there and safely start building that tunnel.”

This is the second speed reduction on I-5 for the Gateway Project, which is extending SR-509 and SR-167.

The first went into effect near the Fife curve earlier this month. Olsen said drivers could be doing a better job in cutting their speeds there.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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