CHOKEPOINTS

As the JBLM air show returns, so will congestion on I-5

Jul 13, 2023, 5:03 AM

JBLM air show...

Joint Base Lewis-McChord. (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Distracted driving is usually caused by things drivers are doing in their cars, but it’ll be what’s outside their windows causing the problems this weekend in the Sound South.

This is the ultimate distraction for drivers, high-performance military jets doing wild maneuvers right over the freeway and in your sight line.

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For the first time in seven years, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) is holding its air show. And with the way southbound Interstate 5 bends through the area from Tacoma, drivers are pointed right at the airfield, which puts the action right in front of you, and you can see the jets from miles away.

I drove through this once before, and it created huge slowdowns on the freeway, and believe me, it’s hard to keep your eyes on the road.

“We remind drivers, do not stop or park on the highways to watch the airshow,” the Washington Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) April Leigh said. “We understand there will be increased air traffic at JBLM through the weekend. Keep your eyes on the road when you’re there. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of collisions.”

The show is going to cause huge backups between Nisqually and Tacoma all weekend.

“Consider delaying travel or altering your travel plans this weekend if you take I-5 through the JBLM corridor,” Leigh said.

The gates open at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, so the congestion will start early for those just trying to get to the show. The flying demonstrations begin around noon and culminate with the Thunderbirds in the late afternoon.

Airshow returns to JBLM after 7 year hiatus

That’s when the distraction slowdowns will be at their worst.

WSDOT has been working with JBLM for weeks on a traffic management plan, and they are ready to handle this.

“Our traffic management team will be working with them throughout the weekend to help keep traffic moving,” Leigh said. “We have increased Incident Response Teams that will be in the area to quickly address any incidents on the road.”

WSDOT has postponed any construction work through the area for this weekend to keep from adding to any delays.

If you are heading to the show, you should aim for using the remote parking lots and taking shuttles to the show. There is very limited parking on the base. Pierce Transit is offering free parking and shuttle trips from the State Route 512 Park and Ride and the Lakewood Station.

There is also a free shuttle from the JBLM Dupont Gate.

The air show is free, but you can pay for premium seating.

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As the JBLM air show returns, so will congestion on I-5