I-5 - Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road - Southbound HOV

Project news 

  • Weather has delayed an upcoming traffic shift previously scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17 that will allow crews to start work on the East L Street bridge. New dates will be announced pending weather and subcontractor availability.  Once in place, drivers will see southbound lanes shifted to the right, just south of the new Puyallup River Bridge. The WSDOT blog has more details on the traffic shift. Overnight lane and ramp closures will be in place the night before the traffic shift occurs. Check www.tacomatraffic.com for lane and ramp closure hours.
  • The first lane of traffic is now on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. The WSDOT blog has more graphics and details about this work. The connecting northbound and southbound HOV lanes from SR 16 in Tacoma to I-5 in Fife are scheduled to open Fall 2021.
  • The bridge deck on the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge is complete! This video captures some of the work that went into finishing the bridge deck. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, crews finished installing the final 30 bridge girders on the last three spans of the new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge. One of the girders that crews are installing is 223 feet and holds the record as the longest prestressed concrete girder manufactured in the U.S. at Concrete Technology Corporation in Tacoma, WA. In 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.
  • The traffic shift for southbound I-5 drivers near the Puyallup River Bridge is now in place. This YouTube video describes what lanes travelers need to be in so they can reach their destinations.
  • The East L Street overpass is closed to pedestrian, vehicular and bicycle traffic. 
  • A temporary regulatory speed limit reduction to 50 mph on I-5 is in place. The speed limit reduction for this project on northbound I-5 begins at milepost 133.06 and continues to milepost 136.19. The speed limit reduction on southbound I-5 begins at milepost 136.67 and continues to milepost 133.86.
  • Southbound HOV project map (pdf 4.6 Mb)
  • For real-time updates, follow @wsdot_tacoma on Twitter, visit the travel alerts page and download the mobile app.

Why is WSDOT building new I-5 bridges over the Puyallup River along with new HOV lanes?
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 (I-5), State Route 16 (SR 16), and State Route 167 (SR 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.

The most notable work to occur in this project is building a new southbound Puyallup River Bridge that will be straighter and wider than the existing bridge. Both of these features are improvements that will help traffic move smoothly through the area.

The End Result
In addition to a new southbound bridge and HOV lane over the Puyallup River, this project will make numerous improvements to southbound I-5. Those improvements include:

  • Modifying the Port of Tacoma Road on-ramp to southbound I-5.
  • Demolishing the existing old I-5 bridges over the Puyallup River.
  • Demolishing and rebuilding the L Street overpass that crosses I-5.
  • Replacing existing concrete pavement from McKinley Avenue to Portland Avenue
  • Upgrading signing, illumination, stormwater collection facilities, and water quality treatment facilities.
  • Opening HOV lanes in both directions on I-5 from SR 16 to Fife.

Needs & benefits

This project will provide a number of benefits to motorists.


  • Widens shoulders.
  • Improves ramp alignments and curves.
  • Improves lighting.

Seismic Upgrades

  • The new southbound bridge will be built to current seismic standards.

Traffic and Operations

  • Additional capacity will improve traffic flow.
  • Reduces conflicting traffic movements or weaving areas.
  • Adds on-ramp metering to maintain traffic flow.

Environmental Improvements

  • Improves stormwater collection and treatment.

Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Improvements

  • Adds traffic cameras.
  • Improves electronic signs for traveler notification.
  • Adds highway advisory radio capacity.
  • Installs traffic data collectors. WSDOT uses data from the collectors to provide traffic information to the public and to monitor traffic conditions.

Information gathered from ITS devices helps WSDOT respond more quickly to highway incidents, which in turn helps reduce traffic delays and blockages caused by incidents.


  • In April 2010, the Washington State Department of Transportation issued a Determination of Non-Significance for this and two other HOV projects on I-5.
  • The preliminary design for this project is complete in conjunction with the I-5 - Portland to Port of Tacoma Road - Northbound HOV project.
  • WSDOT advertised a Request for Proposals for the final design and construction of the project in early 2018.
  • WSDOT has executed a contract with Guy F. Atkinson Construction/Jacobs Engineering. Construction will begin February 2019.
  • Atkinson Construction/Jacobs Engineering schedule shows project completion in late 2021.


Financial Data for PIN 300509S
Funding Source Amount ($ in thousands)
2003 Gas Tax (Nickel Funding) $0
2005 Gas Tax (TPA) $235,416
Pre-Existing Funds (PEF) $0
CWA $0
Total $235,416

Please note: The engineer's estimate for construction falls in the range from $150 to $175M. Remaining costs cover preliminary engineering, agreements, right-of-way, and construction oversight.


Thomas Slimak
Construction Project Engineer
(253) 365-6700

Cara Mitchell
WSDOT Olympic Region Media Relations
(360) 357-2703