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Congestion on Interstate 5 is bad, especially between Lacey and Lakewood. Studies are underway to evaluate and design major new construction projects, but it will take decades and well over a billion dollars to build those projects. Meanwhile, congestion grows.
No one can solve highway congestion. What we can do is make travel more reliable, more efficient, and less expensive. That’s what the JBLM / Interstate 5 Congestion Relief Action Plan will do.
TRPC received funding to develop and implement low-cost, high-value strategies to improve I-5 travel as fast as possible. This site provides background on the efforts leading up to this work, and a record of that work as it progresses.
What has Been Done to Date
Over the last few years, highway investment studies and growth coordination plans have concluded that changes to the interstate system are needed to meet current and future mobility needs.
Recommendations in those plans include reconstructing Interstate 5 to add high-occupancy vehicle and general capacity travel lanes, rebuilding various interchanges, and constructing the Cross Base Highway, in addition to many transportation projects on-base. Implicit in these recommendations is reconstructing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe mainline that crosses over I-5 immediately south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and replacing the 2 bridges that cross the Nisqually River at the Thurston / Pierce County line. These projects will cost well over a billion dollars and take years to accomplish.
No Popular Choices
Choices associated with converting general purpose lanes to carpool-only lanes during peak periods, or introducing tolls or variable speed limits are not popular. Then again, neither is congestion, unreliable travel time, or increased gas taxes to pay for a $1 to $2 billion project. There are no painless, popular choices to improve Interstate 5 mobility, but to do nothing in the face of growing congestion is irresponsible. This project will explain why different measures are selected, the intended benefits, and the costs to implement.
Driving Alternatives Already in Place
Communities in this area have long supported viable travel choices that not only provide alternatives to driving, but also help reduce transportation impacts on climate change and give travelers a way to beat increasing fuel prices. The reliability of transit, vanpool, and carpool options in south sound are impeded by the lack of HOV facilities south of Tacoma. Yet it will cost a lot of money and take years to build that system. The JBLM / Interstate 5 Congestion Relief Action Plan will deploy interim measures to give a time advantage to these more efficient commuter travel options.
Improving the Alternatives we Already Have in Place
We’re taking a systems approach, thinking strategically in the face of urgent need and funding reality. We will look for system bundles that can be deployed within:
3 or more years
Active Traffic Management
Each bundle will include the right mix of investments and policies to make I-5 travel more reliable, more efficient, and help keep transportation costs as low as possible. Active traffic management, HOV lane conversions, transit, vanpools, park-and-ride lots, transit flyers, parking policies, and time of day tolling will be paired with telework, flex schedules, ride share programs, and other employer-based commute trip reduction strategies.
The JBLM / Interstate 5 Congestion Relief Action Plan starts by identifying low-cost, high-value, quick-to-implement measures that can improve travel while longer-term, more expensive strategies are being designed. Waiting years to get started is not an option. Relief is needed now.