OLYMPIA – Need a place to park? Try Interstate 5 between Lacey and Tacoma this spring and summer as the state rejuvenates more than 25 miles of the freeway.
Washington Department of Transportation officials are warning that at the worst, it could mean night and weekend delays of up to five hours and 21-mile backups.
“We’re hoping that doesn’t happen,” said Kevin Dayton, regional Transportation Department administrator. However, “If we find that nobody alters their traffic habits, that’s what the model says are some of the worst ones.”
The project to fix up 25.5 miles of I-5 lanes in two segments between south Tacoma and Lacey, a suburb north of Olympia, is one of dozens under way this year along the freeway corridor in Washington and Oregon.
Many are being paid for by federal stimulus money. In this case, the $8.4 million I-5 project was made possible because eager contractors submitted lower-than-expected bids on earlier stimulus-funded work.
As travelers are well aware, the critical and highly used north-south route is showing its age, with cracks and rough sections in much of the concrete roadway. The state says the road between Lacey and Tacoma has lasted 50 years – two and a half times its expected lifespan.
The work will be on two sections, from south Tacoma to Lakewood, and the Nisqually Delta to Lacey. Work started late last month and is expected to continue through September. Dayton said the agency is trying to make things as easy as possible. But it still will be a motoring ordeal.
Single- or double-lane closures can be expected weeknights from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m, which the department hopes will back up traffic only a mile or two. The closures have started at Lacey and begin April 19 at Tacoma.
Dayton said there will be extended closures on nine weekends, with traffic sometimes down to a single lane in one direction and lasting until 11 a.m. or noon and backups of 5 miles or more. And overnight between April 24 and April 25, all northbound lanes will be closed at Marvin Road, about 6 miles east of Olympia, forcing motorists to detour.