Work has begun on a project to eliminate a tough traffic bottleneck on Interstate 5 in Tacoma, but construction means traffic will get worse over the next three years before it gets better.
The Washington State Department of Transportation says the project will add HOV lanes on I-5 between M Street and Portland Avenue near the Tacoma Dome. The McKinley Way and Pacific Avenue bridges will also be rebuilt to handle the wider interstate. Businesses along or near Pacific Avenue are already bracing for the changes.
"It's definitely going to hurt our business," said Aaron Rusbuldt, the manager at Elephant Car Wash. "Pacific Avenue is one of our main alleys to let cars in and out of our business. With them shutting that down, it's probably going to cut our car count by half."
Drivers should be ready for narrower lanes and shifted alignments in both directions of I-5 during the work.
Starting in mid-September, road crews will begin demolishing and later rebuilding the Pacific Avenue overpass. The bridge will be closed through mid-August 2015, when one lane will be reopened. All lanes will reopen in October 2015.
During the closure, drivers trying to get between Pacific Avenue and Highway 7 will be detoured via South Tacoma Way, M Street and S. 38th Street. Map
Then, the McKinley Way overpass will close in August 2015 and reopen by winter of 2017. Drivers will be detoured via E. 34th Street, Pacific Avenue and S. 26th Street during that time. Map
Even after all that is done in 2017, the new HOV lanes won’t be open to traffic until completion of two other projects to build HOV lanes across the Puyallup River. WSDOT will seek bids from contractors for those projects this fall.
WSDOT said the project is part of an effort to add HOV lanes on I-5, State Route 16 and SR 167.
Tacoma City Councilman Marty Campbell held a town hall meeting Monday to discuss the potential impacts and discuss detours to residents and commuters.