I-5 - SR 16 Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program

Project news

The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program is a series of projects that build high-occupancy-vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-5, SR 16 and SR 167 in Pierce County.

From this page, you can navigate to individual projects that make up the program. Some projects are complete, some under construction, others in design and some are unfunded. 

Why is WSDOT building a regional HOV program?
To understand the answer to that question, it helps to understand what HOV lanes are.

HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle, and is a designation WSDOT gives to highway lanes restricted to vehicles carrying two persons or more. In the early 1990s, WSDOT began in earnest to build a core HOV system on state highways around greater Seattle, and has been expanding the system ever since. 

WSDOT's core HOV system plan includes designing and constructing about 320 lane miles of HOV lanes.  Currently WSDOT has built and opened about 235 of those HOV lane miles, most of which are located north of the King/Pierce County line. They can be found on numerous highways and interstates, including Interstate 5, Interstate 405, Interstate 90, State Route 520, State Route 509, State Route 525, State Route 526, State Route 167, State Route 522 and State Route 99.

In 2007, WSDOT opened its first HOV lanes in Pierce County on State Route 16. They extend from Union Avenue in Tacoma to Olympic Drive in Gig Harbor. In 2010, WSDOT opened its first I-5 HOV lanes in Pierce County. The six lane-miles (three lanes in each direction) extend from the King County Line to the Port of Tacoma Road. In addition, WSDOT has completed several projects to prepare for future HOV construction closer to downtown Tacoma, and has built a new westbound viaduct at the I-5/SR 16 interchange.  A new eastbound viaduct opened to drivers in Aug. 2014.

Why does WSDOT build HOV lanes?

WSDOT believes we cannot build our way out of congestion. However, we can make the best possible use of new and existing highway capacity. To that end, WSDOT has established policies regarding the HOV system. The goals of the system are:

  • To maximize the people-carrying capacity of the freeway system by providing incentives to use buses, vanpools and carpools.
  • To provide capacity for future travel growth.
  • To help reduce transportation-related pollution and dependency on fossil fuels. 

Through HOV programs and policies, we strive to make the best use of existing facilities by increasing freeway efficiency and promoting programs to move more people in fewer vehicles. Have questions about how HOV lanes work? Check out HOV frequently asked questions.

The End Result
When the the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program is complete, you'll be able to travel in an HOV lane from Gig Harbor all the way to Everett.

Needs & benefits

In addition new HOV lanes, these projects include many other improvements:

  • Safety – Additional merge lanes, wider shoulders, improved ramp alignments and curves, and improved lighting.
  • Traffic and Operations – Improved mobility due to additional capacity, better roadway alignments and the relocation of on-ramps and exits. 
  • Environment – Noise barriers at select locations to minimize traffic noise, enhance or expand nearby wetlands, improved methods to treat storm water runoff.
  • Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) – New closed-circuit traffic cameras, more electronic signs for traveler notification, highway advisory radio broadcast transmitters, and traffic data collectors. Each of these tools helps WSDOT better manage traffic and improve communication with the traveling public. 


The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program consists of a series of a projects that started in 2001 and will continue through 2022.

Currently Under Construction: 

Completed Projects
We have already completed several projects within the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program. Each project contributes to the bigger transportation picture in Pierce County.

  • 2019 I-5 - SR 16 Realignment - HOV Structures and Connections
  • 2018 I-5: M Street to Portland Avenue - HOV
  • 2018 I-5: Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road - Northbound HOV.
  • 2014 I-5/SR 16: Eastbound Nalley Valley 
  • 2012 - I-5: Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road - Northbound HOV Stage 1. In this first contract, crews focused on widening, seismic upgrades and ground improvements to prepare for future projects that will ultimately help improve traffic flow on I-5 through Tacoma.
  • 2011 - I-5/SR 16: Westbound Nalley Valley. In June, crews opened the new westbound SR 16 viaduct over Nalley Valley, and three new ramps at the SR 16/Sprague Avenue interchange: 1) southbound I-5 to Sprague Ave., 2) northbound I-5 to Sprague Ave., and 3) Sprague Ave. to westbound SR 16.
  • 2010 - I-5: Port of Tacoma Road to King County Line. Crews opened almost 6 HOV lane miles on I-5 (3 northbound and 3 southbound) from the King County Line to the Port of Tacoma Road.
  • 2008 - Although the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge is not funded with monies in the HOV Program (it is funded through tolls instead), HOV projects sandwich the bridge, making it a vital transportation link for HOV projects in Pierce County. All construction included in the bridge project is now complete. The bridge opened to traffic on July 15, 2007.
  • 2008 - The I-5 - South 48th Street to Pacific Avenue project is complete. This project prepared for the reconstruction of the Nalley Valley.
  • 2007 - SR 16 - Union to Jackson Avenue complete.
  • 2005 - SR 16 - 36th Street Interchange to Olympic Drive project complete.
  • 2004 - SR 16 - Pearl Street to Jackson Avenue project complete.
  • 2002 - SR 16 - Sprague Avenue Interchange to Snake Lake project complete.
  • 2001 - I-5 - 38th Street Interchange project complete.


The funding listed above represents the current delivery plan. While the HOV Program scope has remained the same, the work delivery plan has been modified over time to increase construction efficiencies and maximize resources.

The total costs for all funded projects within the HOV Program include the completed projects on I-5 and SR 16, and projects in active design and construction. The HOV Program also includes future unfunded projects, the costs for which are not reflected in the above totals.


Financial Data for PIN 300504A
Funding Source Amount ($ in thousands)
2003 Gas Tax (Nickel Funding) $312,144
2005 Gas Tax (TPA) $932,760
Pre-Existing Funds (PEF) $103,045
CWA $0
Total $1,347,949


Cara Mitchell
Media Relations
WSDOT Olympic Region

Project Stages Map

The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program is a series of projects that will provide operational improvements on I-5, SR 16 and SR 167. Click on the map to view the project area and a list of the projects.