Weather permitting, drivers will have a new auxiliary lane on southbound Interstate 5 between Thorne Lane and Berkeley Avenue in Lakewood starting at 5 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27.
The new auxiliary lane increases the number of southbound I-5 lanes from three to four between the two ramps, giving drivers more room to merge on and off I-5 along that busy stretch of highway.
“The southbound exit to Berkeley Avenue has a history of traffic backups that block the right southbound lane of I-5, especially during morning commutes,” said WSDOT Regional Administrator Kevin Dayton. “This new auxiliary lane gives drivers an area off mainline I-5 to wait for their turn at the signal.”
It is the first step in a larger improvement to alleviate the southbound backups at the exit altogether. Eventually, the City of Lakewood will add a second left-turn lane at the ramp and widen the Freedom Bridge overpass to improve access to Madigan Hospital.
“We recognize how important I-5 is to the area’s economic vitality and this is one example of improving our existing highway operations,” said state Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson. “WSDOT and its regional partners are working on many projects to help reduce traffic congestion along I-5 near Joint Base Lewis-McChord.”
Increases in traffic congestion prompted WSDOT and local city, county, and JBLM officials to refocus on highway improvements along the I-5 corridor. Over the past decade, populations in Thurston and Pierce counties have grown exponentially and numerous big employers have moved into the area. While populations increased, the interstate steadily approached capacity.
In addition to the new auxiliary lane, WSDOT is in the process of installing new ramp meters, travel time signs and data stations, closed-circuit traffic cameras and variable-message signs along I-5 between State Routes 510 and 512 in Thurston and Pierce counties. These communication devices not only help WSDOT manage traffic, but they provide real-time traffic information to the public. Other efforts to improve highway operations are also underway.
WSDOT was awarded TIGER Grant funding to complete the project.