A state first: Lane striping on I-5 in Fife turns orange this summer to help drivers notice the work zone

WSDOT is testing orange lane striping to help improve worker and driver safety 

FIFE – For the first time in Washington, orange lane striping will be added to white lane lines in an active work zone to test whether the brightly colored paint helps improve work zone awareness and safety.

On Wednesday, June 7, Washington State Department of Transportation contractor crews working on the Puget Sound Gateway Program’s State Route 167 Completion Project will add orange striping in both directions of Interstate 5 between milepost 138 near Wapato Way and milepost 139 near Porter Way. This work is weather-dependent.

The new orange stripes will appear between the traditional white lane stripes to help alert drivers to the construction zone. Crews on the completion project are working in the median of I-5 building two new bridges.

A graphic showing the orange contrast striping that will be used in the I-5 work zone in Fife
Orange contrast lane stripes will be added to the work zone in I-5 in Fife for a pilot project with the Federal Highway Administration

“WSDOT is committed to improving driver and worker safety,” said WSDOT Project Engineer Tom Slimak. “This includes carefully trying new strategies that could help improve safety for both workers and drivers in work zones.”

WSDOT will conduct surveys and collect travel data to help determine whether the orange pavement markings increased awareness of the work zone and whether it affected driver behavior.

Lane closures for striping work

Adding the orange contrast striping will require overnight ramp and lane closures:

  • 10 p.m. Wednesday, June 7 to 3:30 a.m. Thursday, June 8: The 54th Avenue on-ramp to northbound I-5 will close.
  • 11 p.m. Wednesday, June 7 to 4:45 a.m. Thursday, June 8: Traffic will be reduced to one lane in both directions.
  • 4:45 a.m. Thursday, June 8: All lanes will reopen to traffic.

What drivers should do

As travelers approach the new orange and white lane lines, they should:

  • Continue to drive through the work zone using caution.
  • Observe the posted 50 mph construction zone speed limit.
  • Stay alert, follow construction signage, slow down and remain focused on the road to keep themselves and crews safe.

The orange striping will remain in place throughout the summer until lane lines return to traditional white striping in fall 2023. 

Testing new strategies to improve driver and worker safety

The Federal Highway Administration granted approval to WSDOT and its contractor, Guy F Atkinson Construction, to conduct a pilot project using the orange striping. Orange striping has also been tested in California, Kentucky, Texas and Wisconsin. Information gathered during WSDOT’s pilot project will be used by the FHWA to evaluate whether orange contrast striping is an effective method to improve highway work zone safety.

Construction crews are working on I-5 next to high-speed traffic. Every construction work zone goes through careful planning and set-up, but the risk of collisions and intrusions into the work zone remains high.

“Work zone collisions don’t just affect drivers and construction crews. Motorists, their passengers, and passing pedestrians account for 95 percent of the people hurt in construction work zone accidents,” said Slimak. “We want to make sure everyone – drivers, our crews and passersby – get home safely to their loved ones at the end of each day.”

More information about WSDOT’s work zone strategies and driver tips are available on the work zone safety webpage.

Gateway Program overview

The Puget Sound Gateway Program combines the SR 509 Completion Project in King County and the SR 167 Completion Project in Pierce County to finish critical missing links in Washington’s highway and freight network.

The SR 167 Completion Project builds six new miles of tolled highway between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma. As part of this project, construction crews are building new bridges on I-5 for the planned realignment of Hylebos Creek to help restore nearly 150 acres of wetlands and creeks near I-5 and SR 167 in Fife.

Highway users traveling through the work zones can access real-time traffic information on the WSDOT app and WSDOT regional Twitter account.

Slow down on ice and snow.

It's easier to skid or lose control traveling at higher speeds. Give yourself more time to stop.

Carry chains, practice installing them.

Winter conditions could mean chains are required on your route. Practice putting them on your vehicle ahead of time.

Pack your winter car kit.

Carry extra supplies like warm clothing, ice scraper and brush, jumper cables and other emergency items.