After 18 years, there's an end in sight to Tacoma's traffic nightmare

TACOMA - Tacoma has dealt with construction on I-5 for two decades, but the good news for commuters, all those construction cones are going to be gone soon as construction nears its final few projects.

It’s a commute filled with construction cones and congestion.

“Certain amount of uncertainty the last couple years,” said Chris Crow, who commutes through Tacoma on I-5 daily. “You’ll see things like I have to be in this lane a mile and a half early to make this exit. I won’t lie to you, I’ve missed the exit a few times."

Crow says when he meets clients in Seattle, his commute from Tacoma means, “I account for two hours to make it on time to meet a customer,” he said.

That commute has been the norm for Crow and other drivers for nearly 20 years while WSDOT has been working on construction between the Pierce-King county line south to 48th street by the Tacoma mall and SR-16 to Gig Harbor.

“I venture to say this is the worst stretch of freeway I have to deal with,” said Crow.

The hope is dealing with the project will be easier once it enters its final phases. It may look like one big project, but it’s actually 17 different projects.

A side-by-side photo shows how much has changed along I-5 through Tacoma over the past four years.

WSDOT has widened I-5 to make room for HOV lanes, replaced all original concrete with new roadway surface, rebuilt the Pacific Avenue overpass and built a new bridge over I-705 among other projects.

“It is a need and it is a demand we are at capacity with our freeways and we need to be thinking of mass transit and carpooling and reducing the amount of cars on the freeway,” said Cara Mitchell with WSDOT.

For commuters like Crow, a sigh of relief that 20 years of construction is almost over.

“At least not having lane closures at odd hours will be absolutely fantastic,” said Crow.

A number of ramps and exits will be closed this week. A full list can be found here.