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I-5 Congestion Around JBLM - How Do You Fix It?

If I-5 south of Tacoma, specifically that lovely stretch through JBLM, is part of your regular commute, you may want to take note of an upcoming open house.

WSDOT is inviting residents and highway uses to learn more and to share their thoughts on resolving the problem of the frequent... congestion through that area.

If you've ever driven through the area on I-5 in anything remotely resembling a busy time of day, you know the situation - traffic slows to a crawl, and there doesn't seem to be much you can do, other than sit and swear. And it's only going to get worse. 

A planning study conducted last year explored the situation in depth, analyzing current traffic and influencing factors, predicting future trends, and identifying some ideas for addressing the problem.

I-5 traffic in south Pierce County increased 73% between 1986 and 2011, but the last significant widening project in the area was way back in 1975. Current peak traffic speeds through the JBLM area are between 22 and 36 mph. If nothing is done, traffic is expected to exceed capacity for up to 13 hours a day, with speeds during those periods expected to decrease to under 20 mph, and back ups extending north of 512.

The preliminary study identified a range of possible options - basically variations on widening I-5 beyond the current three lanes each direction, with the addition of various combinations of general purpose, HOV, collector/distributor, and/or auxillary lanes. Those scenarios were analyzed in terms of improvements to travel speed, hours of congestion, person-trips, and friction/conflict relief, as well as cost and environmental considerations.

Out of a half-dozen possible scenarios, two were identified in the study as having the greatest potential for improving the stretch of I-5 One would add an HOV land and a collector/distributor or auxillary lane in each direction. The other would add a fourth general purpose lane to the existing three, and an HOV lane in each direction.

Also up for discussion are various improvements to the four interchanges in the study area, and strategies for improving multimodal travel options and local streets in the area. Read more in the summary report from WSDOT (pdf).

The open house, scheduled for June 11, will be an informal drop-in style opportunity for the public to learn about alternatives being explored and to share their own thoughts on the situation. No formal presentation is scheduled, and those interested in attending are welcome to come any time during the three hour open house. 

So, what are your thoughts?

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