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Olympia/Tacoma Area Questions

Welcome to "Ask the Traffic Team," a Web page created to answer your everyday questions about traffic issues in WSDOT's Olympic Region. You can find common questions sorted by subject in our Frequently Asked Questions archive.

To submit your question, simply e-mail our Public Affairs office and provide as much detail as possible. You can typically expect a response with a week.

SR 410 traffic
Tracy from Tacoma wonders if WSDOT has a plan to address traffic that backs up on SR 410 at the SR 167 merge. The line of cars often blocks the exit to Traffic Ave./E. Main and drivers can’t access the exit. What can WSDOT do?

Union Ave. merge
Scott from Tacoma has struggled through the SR 16 construction for the past year, but no one seems to be addressing the backup caused by the Union Ave merge. Does WSDOT plan to fix this and solve the congestion problem?

Speed limit change
Justin from Olympia is concerned about the speed limit change on US 101 between Cooper Point Road. Previously, the speed limit was 60 mph, but has now been dropped to 45 mph – and most drivers don’t follow the new limit. What can WSDOT do?


Q: Can WSDOT do something about traffic that backs up on SR 410 at the SR 167 merge and blocks the Main St exit?
We agree that this is a problem and would like to do something to substantially alleviate the backups. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that we see more and more of around the region. The ultimate solution to these kinds of problems often requires a reworking of the various ramps in the area which is usually very expensive. The area’s infrastructure is simply not keeping pace with the increasing traffic volumes seen in the region.

That said, we will be placing a sign near the Traffic Avenue off-ramp stating, “Do Not Block Ramp.” Hopefully, this will help the situation you describe until the funding is available to build a more permanent fix.

Q: Why has WSDOT not addressed the Union Ave. merge in Tacoma?
The congestion you see is the result of two interchanges being located close together and the resultant merging that happens. Many years ago when the Union Avenue interchange was built, it was meant to replace the Sprague interchange. However, by the time the Union interchange was built, people were used to using the Sprague interchange and various folks (city officials, politicians, etc.) were not keen on permanently closing the Sprague ramps. Thus the decision was made to keep both the Sprague and Union interchanges operational.

One feature coming in the future that may help will be the completion of the entire Nalley Valley interchange. The first stage rebuilt the westbound portion, and we are now starting work to replace the eastbound portion. Both those facilities are general purpose, meaning they are open to all traffic. In 2020 we'll start the third and final phase, which is building an HOV bridge and direct-access HOV ramps joining I-5 HOV lanes to/from SR 16 HOV lanes. Even though the merge at Union will still be there, at least the HOV traffic will be on its own facility and out of the way.

Q: Why did the speed limit change on US 101?
WSDOT, in conjunction with the Washington State Patrol, reduced the speed limit from US 101 to northbound I-5 to decrease the potential for collisions.

WSP Troopers found this area to be the site of many incidents, mostly due to high speeds. The Washington State Patrol is actively monitoring the area and enforcing the lowered speed limit of 45 mph.

If you have more questions regarding the enforcement, please contact Trooper Guy Gill (  
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