CHOKEPOINTS

Construction has returned to I-5 through JBLM

Sep 14, 2023, 4:00 PM

I-5 construction...

The existing overpass on I-5 that will be replaced (Photo from WSDOT, Doug Adamson)

(Photo from WSDOT, Doug Adamson)

Just when you thought it was safe to get on Interstate 5 (I-5) south of Tacoma, the construction workers, heavy machinery and lane closures are back.

This is the third and final phase of the freeway expansion through Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Work has just started on a project that will add close to two miles of HOV lane on I-5 southbound from where it ends today down to the Steilacoom-DuPont Road.

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According to Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) spokesperson Doug Adamson, there will be a corresponding 3.5-mile expansion of the HOV lane in the northbound direction.

“You’ll be able to pick up the new HOV lane right there at Mounts Road and be able to hang into an HOV lane all the way up to where it ends there, by State Route 512, and then pick it back up by State Route 16,” Adamson said.

This project will also build a new half-diverging diamond interchange at the Steilacoom-Dupont interchange, replacing the existing ramp.

“The existing one is too low, and it’s running towards the end of its life,” Adamson said. “It needs to be replaced.”

This interchange will greatly increase the access to the south end of JBLM, as will new auxiliary lanes connecting exits. The work has already begun, and contractors plan to keep three lanes open during the project.

“There will be better access through the JBLM to the DuPont Gate, and we’ll be extending the auxiliary lanes through the area so people can who are going exactly back into JBLM can use those,” Adamson said. “Travelers may have already noticed that we did shift some of the lanes over on northbound I-5.”

There will be overnight lane closures and other disruptions to drivers. This is a three-year project and Adamson said there’s enough work to go around to keep workers busy year round.

“Weather always is a factor,” he said. “It does affect paving. It does affect when we put down new lane lines, but we can do demolition. We can do earthwork. We can set girders.”

WSDOT said that 140,000 vehicles a day use that stretch of I-5. There have been significant improvements in travel through the area after the first two projects in this series. This project hopes to expand on those, easing mobility throughout the area.

And while this is the final phase of this project, it is not the last job on I-5.

Planning is already underway to widen the freeway from DuPont into Lacey, which will include new bridges over the Nisqually River. There is no timeline for this project, and the legislature has yet to fund it.

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