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Tribe, WSDOT mark groundbreaking of Puyallup River bridge

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State, local and Puyallup Tribal officials held a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 18, for the next Interstate 5 project in Tacoma.

The ceremony starts a three-year construction project that will add a commuter lane along I-5, increase access to tribal properties and tie into an associated project from M Street to Portland Avenue that started construction last summer.

The new onramp and bridge will be constructed just south of the existing I-5 lanes between Portland and Port of Tacoma at a cost of $296 million.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included: Hans Zeiger, 25th District Representative; Bill Sterud, Puyallup Tribe of Indians Chairman; David Boe, Tacoma Deputy Mayor; Lynn Peterson, Secretary of Transportation; Scott Williams, Hamilton Construction President and Kevin Dayton, Olympic Region Administrator.

“It has not been easy for the Puyallup Tribe to discuss changes to our river,” Sterud said, noting the decades of rechanneling, chemical dumping and environmental degradation it has seen. “It has suffered much.”

The construction agreement calls for improved access to fishing grounds, environmental controls and more direct access to tribal lands.

This project widens I-5 from Portland Avenue to the Port of Tacoma Road to provide room for one HOV lane in each direction and four general-purpose lanes in each direction. As part of this project, WSDOT will also rebuild the I-5 Puyallup River bridges, reconstruct the I-5/SR 167 interchange, improve the Portland Avenue interchange and repave all the lanes on I-5 within the project limits. The new bridge is part of a series of highway projects to improve congestion and safety along I-5 by adding high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on I-5, State Route 16, and State Route 167 in the coming years. Through Tacoma, heavy I-5 traffic creates frequent congestion, so the commuter 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. The bridge will also be straighter and wider than the current roadway, which will make that stretch of I-5 safer as drivers cross the Puyallup Bridge. The road will be fitted with “smart highway” technology to provide real-time traffic and weather conditions.

After the northbound bridge is built, crews will build a new southbound bridge adjacent to the northbound bridge. When that work is complete, the bridges will accommodate a northbound and southbound HOV lane.

The projects came through a partnership and coordination by a host of state, local and federal agencies since the site spans Tacoma, Fife and state land as well as Tribal land and traditional fishing grounds.

“It has been a long journey,” Peterson said. “We have built the canoe and we are ready to paddle.”

More information about I-5 projects can be found at wsdot.wa.gov/news.

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