CHOKEPOINTS

HOV project in Tacoma is almost guaranteed to cause months-long chokepoint

Oct 13, 2016, 10:33 AM

Tacoma has been a construction zone for the better part of two decades, but recently a small tweak has made a big delay for drivers coming into the city using Highway 16.

It should come as no shock to anyone that Tacoma traffic has been particularly bad as the state adds HOV lanes to I-5 through the middle of the city. But this week the state made a change in the work zone that has really impacted the drive.

Contractors blocked off a lane of the eastbound Highway 16 connection to northbound I-5. That also serves as the ramp drivers take to Interstate 705 or Highway 7.

“We’re building a new route for northbound I-5 through to Tacoma,” said Doug Adamson with the Washington State Department of Transportation. “In order to make this connection we have to remove that lane — take it out of service — and use it as a work zone so we can build that new approach.”

Adamson says this is an example of the juggling the contractor has to do while essentially moving I-5 in the area while keeping it open.

“When you have this type of work that’s going on between two separate highways … that also complicates the matter,” he said.

The last time the state took a lane from this ramp, in 2015, drivers saw significant delays getting to I-5 from Highway 16.

“We understand how this is an inconvenience,” Adamson said. “We are in a phase of construction that is very, very difficult.”

Adamson says the state’s job is to balance the need of the drivers and the need for construction.

Highway 16 backed-up more than three miles into and through this construction zone on Wednesday. This newly squeezed configuration is going to last until at least the spring of 2017.

There is a pretty useful way to get around this. Get into the far right lane and take the exit to Highway 7. Take it all the way to the top of the hill where it puts you on 38th. Stay in the right lane and get right back on Highway 7 into downtown Tacoma. You will join I-5 just after the merge.

It has saved me before. It might just work for you.

Send Chris a traffic tip at @KIROTraffic on Twitter or email him.

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HOV project in Tacoma is almost guaranteed to cause months-long chokepoint