Nalley Valley work impacts speed limits, but not one scary merge

The in basket: Bill Howell wrote Wednesday to say, “I drove Highway 16 today on my way to Seattle and noticed that the speed limit has changed. Eastbound the speed limit is 60 until just before Pearl (in Tacoma). Westbound the speed limit is 60 starting at I-5. Yea!!!”

It’s still 55 eastbound from Pearl Street until you get to the 40 mph construction area at Sprague, he said.

The out basket: That increase from 55 to 60 mph has been on hold at the State Patrol’s request until the work where Highway 16 joins I-5 at Nalley Valley is complete. That milestone was reached almost exactly a year ago for westbound traffic, so the speed limit has just been raised in the entire westbound direction.

Work remains to be done in the eastbound direction, but Lisa Copeland, spokesman for the Olympic Region or state highways, says, “We have begun to raise the speed limit on SR 16 at the request of the public and with support from the WSP.

As I worked on Bill’s e-mail, I came across an earlier inquiry about the Nalley Valley work from Michael Drouin of Bremerton, sent in February. He said, “The on ramp for I-705 and Pacific Avenue to I-5 South merge at the same point that southbound I-5 drivers are attempting to exit I-5 to SR16. This location is always extremely dangerous to navigate. Are there plans for the Nalley Valley interchange (work) to eliminate this hazard?”

I share Michael’s unease when trying to move right into traffic entering I-5 from downtown Tacoma, especially if it’s dark and rainy. I hadn’t occurred to me until I was talking with Claudia Bingham-Baker of the state DOT’s public affairs staff, but it’s probably just as scary for those coming up that on-ramp wanting to merge left and continue south on I-5.

Alas, that “weave,” as engineers call it, will remain as it has been after all the Nalley Valley work is done, Claudia said. Work scheduled for 2020, however, will provide a safer route from I-5 to westbound Highway 16 for one stream of traffic – high occupancy vehicles traveling southbound on I-5..

HOV lanes will be built there in both directions on I-5 in 2020, and a flyover bridge will be built to provide a protected route for those HOVs southbound to Highway 16, she said. Otherwise, any driver in the southbound HOV lane would have to merge right across both general use southbound lanes to get to the flow heading to Highway 16 and then merge into that.


4 thoughts on “Nalley Valley work impacts speed limits, but not one scary merge

  1. “The on ramp for I-705 and Pacific Avenue to I-5 South merge at the same point that southbound I-5 drivers are attempting to exit I-5 to SR16. This location is always extremely dangerous to navigate.”

    I find this challenging, but not particularly dangerous, and also very very common. You have a similar situation for Eastbound SR-16 drivers merging onto Northbound I-5. Indeed, that one is much worse because there are several lanes to travel across. There is another similar intersection between SR 410 and SR 167 drivers coming toward Puyallup from Sumner.

    Drivers are too impatient. There is plenty of room to make the lane switch especially when 9 times out of 10 the driver behind you in the lane you want to go to wants to be in your lane (on I-5) just as you want to be in his lane (which leads to SR 16 or the S. 38th street exit.) Stick on your blinker. He sticks on his. You both move at the same time both giving space to and protecting each other. Mission accomplished with a wave of thanks from both. We don’t need More concrete because this is not really a problem that needs to be fixed.

  2. The double weave lane design does seem a bit odd from a flow perspective. Previously, if you were in the right lane of I-5, you were able to exit from that lane. Now you are forced to weave at least one lane and are given somewhere between a 1/4 and 1/2 mile less to make the maneuver.

  3. A significant number of traffic accidents and congestion could be eliminated if the DOL didn’t hand out drivers licenses like they were candy and required some actual driving skills. Knowing how to parallel park isn’t high on the list of skills needed for safe, efficient driving. Passing laws against use of cellphones while driving and then ignoring enforcement is a waste of time and money and is the source of numerous traffic problems. Many people are incapable of multitasking, don’t know how to merge, and are simply too stupid to possess a drivers license.

  4. I read the letter from the lady walking her dog about the DISCOURTEOUS bicycle rider in Gorst with great interest. I started riding a bicycle to and from work while stationed with the German Air Force and continued doing so throughout my military career and also during my 20+ years in the shipyard. I agree that a bicycle has “all the rights and responsibilities” accorded to motor vehicles. However, far too many riders fail to yield the right of way to on coming vehicles. They run stop signs and red lights without even slowing down. Many times I would come to a stop sign or traffic light and other bikers would zoom past me like they had special privileges. I still see this going on today. In Seattle, Bremerton or Gorst, it makes no difference. Remember, with the same rights accorded to motor vehicles comes the same RESPONSIBILITIES. Thank you for letting me vent.

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