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Two Decades, $1.4 Billion: Atkinson Completes I-5 Project

Tue September 20, 2022 - West Edition #20
WSDOT


Atkinson Construction, along with the Washington Department of Transportation, recently completed the bulk of construction work for the $1.4 billion HOV project in Tacoma, Wash.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.)
Atkinson Construction, along with the Washington Department of Transportation, recently completed the bulk of construction work for the $1.4 billion HOV project in Tacoma, Wash. (Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.)
Atkinson Construction, along with the Washington Department of Transportation, recently completed the bulk of construction work for the $1.4 billion HOV project in Tacoma, Wash.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) Crews have been ramping up construction activities on this project since 2019 when they removed the East L Street overpass.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) An aerial view of the timeline of construction for the I-5 HOV?project over the years.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) The last part of the project involved  final striping to open an HOV lane in both directions of I-5 between Fife and SR 16 in Tacoma.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) Remaining work on I-5 includes levee fortification; removing old bridge piers; completing the public art installation on East 28th Street; work to add dedicated left turn lanes on Portland Avenue under I-5; and rebuild the SR 167 on-ramp to southbound I-5.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) After more than 20 years, the Washington Department of Transportation recently announced that the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road Southbound HOV project is now complete. Atkinson Construction served as the main contractor on the project that saw 320 mi. of HOV lanes created on I-5.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) In addition to new HOV lanes, these projects included many other improvements such as safety (additional merge lanes, wider shoulders, improved ramp alignments, curves and improved lighting); traffic and operations (improved mobility due to additional capacity, better roadway alignments and the relocation of on-ramps and exits); environment (noise barriers at select locations to minimize traffic noise, enhance or expand nearby wetlands and improved methods to treat storm water runoff); and an intelligent transportation system (ITS).
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) Part of this project included the building of a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) Crews installed the longest single-piece, prestressed concrete girder manufactured in the U.S., coming in at a length of 223 ft., according to Concrete Products.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.) Part of the I-5 widening included building a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge and removing the old I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.
(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation.)

If it seemed like it was a long time coming, that's because it was.

After more than two decades and $1.4 billion in construction, the Washington Department of Transportation recently announced that the I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road Southbound HOV project is now complete. A new section of the southbound HOV lane on I-5 from the Port of Tacoma Road, connecting to the westbound SR 16 HOV lane has now opened.

"After 15 years of construction, this final Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program project will complete HOV connectivity from SR 16 south of Tacoma to downtown Seattle," Atkinson Construction said in a statement.

The latest milestone concludes of a series of projects that are part of the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program that builds 320 mi. of HOV lanes on I-5, SR 16 and SR 167 in Pierce County, approximately 35 mi. south of Seattle.

Atkinson Construction, based out of Renton, Wash., served as the general contractor for the massive project, a subsidiary of Maryland-based Clark Construction. Over the course of 22 years, numerous other construction companies had a hand in building the project. They included Bechtel, Hamilton Construction, Jacobs, Kiewit Pacific, Max J. Kuney Company, Mowat Construction, Skanska USA, Scarsella Bros., Tri-State Construction, Woodworth and Company and WSP USA.

Crews punched the final checklist by restriping southbound I-5 from the King County line to the Port of Tacoma Road to finish opening the new southbound lane. Remaining items for Atkinson include levee protection along the Puyallup River; removing old I-5 bridge piers; rebuilding the SR 167 on-ramp to southbound I-5 and adding dedicated left turn lanes on Portland Avenue under I-5.

New East L Street Bridge Opens

As part of this project, crews replaced the East L Street bridge spanning I-5. The new bridge has wider lanes, wider sidewalks and has dedicated bike lanes in each direction. The East L Street bridge was removed and replaced to accommodate I-5 widening beneath it.

Another highlight of the overall I-5 project was replacing the more than 60-year-old I-5 Puyallup River Bridge with a new bridge built to current seismic standards that is straighter and wider. Work on this $325 million section began in 2019. The southbound bridge included a 223-ft. girder that is the longest prestressed girder manufactured in the United States. In all, the bridge consists of nine spans and 84 girders.

In addition to new HOV lanes, these projects include many other improvements:

  • Safety: Additional merge lanes, wider shoulders, improved ramp alignments and curves and improved lighting;
  • Traffic and Operations: Improved mobility due to additional capacity, better roadway alignments and the relocation of on-ramps and exits;
  • Environment: Noise barriers at select locations to minimize traffic noise, enhance or expand nearby wetlands and improved methods to treat storm water runoff;
  • Intelligent Transportation System (ITS): New closed-circuit traffic cameras, more electronic signs for traveler notifications, highway advisory radio broadcast transmitters and traffic data collectors. Each of these tools helps WSDOT better manage traffic and improve communication with the traveling public.
Previous Phases of Project

Construction activities for this massive project have ramped up over the last three years. Since 2019, aside from the addition of HOV lanes, crews have completed the following:

  • Built a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge;
  • Removed all but a few remaining pieces of the old northbound and southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge;
  • Widened I-5;
  • Replaced the East L Street Bridge;
  • Added new auxiliary lanes;
  • Installed enhanced lighting, stormwater collection and filtration improvements; and
  • Replaced aging pavement.
About the Project

This project is part of the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program, a series of highway projects to provide operational improvements and high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes on Interstate 5, State Route 16 and State Route 167. Through Tacoma, heavy I-5 traffic creates frequent congestion. HOV lanes will help ensure that transit, vanpools and carpools move efficiently through the corridor, especially when traffic is congested in the adjacent general-purpose lanes. This reliability tends to increase ridership in multi-passenger vehicles and thereby helps ease demand in the general-purpose lanes, making the overall highway system work better for everyone.

Project Construction Timeline

February 2019

WSDOT executed a contract with Guy F. Atkinson Construction/Jacobs Engineering. Construction began.

April 2019

Construction crews removed the East L Street overpass to allow Interstate 5 to be widened.

February 2020

The first 54 bridge girders were installed on six of the nine bridge spans on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

January 2021

Crews installed the final 30 bridge girders on the last three spans of the new bridge

June 2021

First travel lane opens on new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge

December 2021

Fifteen girders on the East L Street bridge installed over I-5.

April 2022

All southbound I-5 travel lanes moved to new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge.

June 2022

Northbound I-5 from SR 16 to Port of Tacoma Road is moved to final alignment. New general purpose lane opens.

August 2022

New HOV lanes open.




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