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A major exit from Interstate 5 to downtown Tacoma is being closed starting Friday night to make way for construction of a new ramp. That's going to make the drive through Tacoma a little tougher.
Just before midnight on Friday, WSDOT will close exit 133. The ramp closure means northbound traffic headed for the city center will now have to get off one exit earlier at exit 132. That exit currently accommodates traffic for both the city center and Highway 16 headed toward Gig Harbor.
"We're closing the ramp so crews can go in and build new northbound I-5 lanes, direct connect HOV lanes between I-5 and State Route 16 and a permanent new CD [collector-distributor] lane to the city center from northbound I-5," Cara Mitchell with WSDOT said.
But the changes are just beginning.
In early May, all I-5 drivers in that area will see massive changes as the northbound lanes are narrowed and rerouted into some of the southbound lanes, which will also slide over toward the mall to accommodate the traffic.
"We did this detour route back in 2012, and there was some time where drivers had to get used to it," Mitchell said.
She figures it will take about a month for drivers to figure things out. And then there will be roughly six more months of traffic headaches as crews tackle the multiple projects here, which will end all planned construction in the Nalley Valley, an area with backups seven days a week.
And while drivers on SR 16 headed for I-5 north will have to compete with a little more traffic on the alternative route of I-705, a second lane from SR 16 to I-5 should open up this summer, making the merge a little less of a mess.
"We began projects on the Tacoma-Pierce County HOV projects in the year 2000, so it really has been a while," Mitchell said.
"We do know that traffic through Tacoma right now is tough for drivers. There's a lot of construction fatigue out there," she added.
This is project 17 of 18 funded projects. It's scheduled to be complete by late fall, hopefully before the holiday season. And then the final phase will begin headed southbound. That one is slated to wrap up in 2021.