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New cameras, ramp meters help commuters between Lacey and Tacoma

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Date:  Friday, March 30, 2012

Lisa Copeland, WSDOT communications, 360-357-2789 (Tumwater)

New cameras, ramp meters help commuters between Lacey and Tacoma

NISQUALLY – By tweet and email, motorists gave a resounding “Hooray!” when seven new cameras on Interstate 5 between Lacey and Joint Base Lewis-McChord went online earlier this month.

The new cameras provide drivers a bird’s-eye view of this busy stretch of I-5, and give the Washington State Department of Transportation, fire and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to respond to incidents as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“For decades we had to fly pretty blind on this stretch of I-5,” said Kevin Dayton, Region Administrator. “Emergency responders would receive calls about an incident and have no way of really knowing what they were heading into until they arrived. Now, we use these cameras to better coordinate our response and get the roadway open faster.”

To help the 132,000 daily drivers who use this section of I-5 plan ahead even further, WSDOT’s Web page now also features travel times between Olympia and Tacoma.

“Drivers can check the cameras and travel times to get a much clearer picture of how I-5 is looking before they leave their homes or offices,” said Dayton.

Earlier this month, WSDOT also began using ramp meters at the Marvin, Nisqually and Mounts roads interchanges. The meters help space out traffic as it enters northbound I-5, reducing the potential for collisions and improving travel times through congested areas.

WSDOT monitors the interchanges daily, and has been activating the meters during the peak morning commute. Traffic engineers have determined that while regular metering will continue at the Mounts Road on-ramp, starting Monday, April 2, it will switch to an as-needed basis at the Marvin and Nisqually roads on-ramps.

The ramp meters, traffic cameras and online traveler information were part of a $2.5 million project to help improve traffic through the Joint Base Lewis-McChord area. More improvements are on the way.

WSDOT recently received a $15 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery III Grant in December 2011 that will help fund additional improvements for the I-5 corridor. Future improvements will include additional ramp meters, new signals, and widening highway shoulders to allow vehicles to drive on them between on and off-ramps during peak commute hours.

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