Nalley Valley work impacts speed limits, but not one scary mergeJuly 2nd, 2012 by travis baker
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.