Washington State Department of Transportation crews will review the signage and traffic controls at the State Route 16 and Interstate 705 exits off Interstate 5 South near the Tacoma Dome this week.
As construction continues work to build HOV lanes in Tacoma WSDOT crews have added additional barriers and signs over the last couple of months. WSDOT started notifying drivers last June of the change.
But even at the end of September many drivers find the exit confusing.
“What’s awful is that the moment you miss it. I was like, ‘Aw, no,” said Emily Harden, a student at the University of Puget Sound, who was confused when she returned to school from summer break this fall.
“I like didn’t know that you had to get off to get on 16 like all the way back there, so I missed it by a long shot,” she said.
Because of the construction, if drivers don’t start getting over into the right lane by the Port of Tacoma Road they are likely to miss the exit and will have to get off by the Tacoma Mall.
“The problem is they’ve put all those barriers up and people are trying to cut over and there is no space to cut over and it’s just like chaos,” Harden said.
Brooke Bova from Washington State Patrol says they are responding to numerous collisions near the exit since the change happened this past summer.
“It’s such a long change, and there are so many exits in that one particular area, so it is unique for us. It’s been difficult for people to get used to,” she said. “I-5 is such a very heavily traveled area, so we do have a lot of people unfamiliar with the area, so it’s been unique in that situation as well because we have a lot of people that don’t know the area who are confused. It’s causing a lot of anxiety for our drivers.”
For those like Harden who live in the area some are starting to get the hang of it.
“Now that I know, it’s like okay, but the start was a little rough,” she said.
For those who don’t, Bova has some advice.
“If you do miss your exit or you’re in the wrong lane, don’t panic. There are detour signs,” she said. “There’s a way you can get back onto the freeway.”
A spokesperson for WSDOT says while their calls related to this exit have decreased, they do note that it’s an unusual construction for drivers. They are going to evaluate the area to see if there needs to be additional signage or controls.