After two decades, southbound I-5 HOV lane opens from Fife to Tacoma

Construction largely complete on 14 area projects that started in 2001

TACOMA – It is a milestone two decades in the making.

At 9 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 28, Guy F. Atkinson Construction crews opened the final 3-mile section of southbound Interstate 5 HOV lanes in Pierce County. The new lane connects the existing HOV lane running from Seattle to Fife with the one that stretches from Tacoma to westbound State Route 16 in Gig Harbor.

“Opening HOV lanes through this corridor creates much needed capacity and provides improved drive times during peak commute hours,” said Project Engineer Tom Slimak.  

HOV lanes help maximize the movement of people, and not just vehicles. In areas where population and traffic volumes continue to increase, such as Pierce County, HOV lanes are an essential tool to help keep people moving.

“We can’t build our way out of congestion, but we can build lanes that maximize the movement of people,” said Region Administrator Steve Roark. “For the first time ever, anyone traveling through or living in Pierce County can use a fully connected HOV system between SR 16 in Gig Harbor and I-5 in Seattle.” 

History of the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program

The Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program added over 25 HOV lane miles to I-5, SR 16 and SR 167. The Program consists of over 14 projects built from 2001 to 2022 totaling $1.4 Billion dollars.

  • In 2007, WSDOT opened its first HOV lanes in Pierce County on SR 16.
  • In 2010, WSDOT opened the first I-5 HOV lanes in Fife.

WSDOT created a video that recaps the history of I-5 in Fife and Tacoma, and the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program.

About the project

The I-5 Portland Avenue to Port of Tacoma Road Southbound HOV project connects the HOV lanes to I-5 and SR 16 in Tacoma. This project also:

  • Built a new southbound I-5 Puyallup River Bridge that meets current seismic standards.
  • Rebuilt the East L Street overpass across I-5.
  • Replaced the original northbound I-5 roadway surface from East McKinley Way to Portland Avenue.
  • Replaced the original southbound I-5 roadway surface from Port of Tacoma Road to East McKinley Way.
  • Upgraded signing, lighting and traffic data sensors.
  • Improved stormwater collection and treatment facilities.
  • Removes the original 1962 I-5 bridges, over the Puyallup River.

Real-time traffic information is available on the WSDOT statewide travel map, the WSDOT app and WSDOT regional Twitter account.

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In 2023, speeding continued to be a top reason for work zone crashes.

Even one life lost is too many.

Fatal work zone crashes doubled in 2023 - Washington had 10 fatal work zone crashes on state roads.

It's in EVERYONE’S best interest.

95% of people hurt in work zones are drivers, their passengers or passing pedestrians, not just our road crews.