Focus on I-5, Thurston County and Pierce Transit (Tax Hike Coming)

Focus on I-5, Thurston County and Pierce Transit

Thurston and Pierce County partners are shining the spotlight on I-5 as the bottleneck
between Lacey and Lakewood becomes even more congested. A plethora of agencies are
working together on short- and long-term improvements to make this stretch of highway more efficient.

Corridor & Interchange Analysis
TRPC’s I-5 Origin and Destination study documented the influence on I-5 congestion of
peak period commuter traffic crossing the Nisqually River and other strategic locations.
Coupled with transportation analysis from the South Sound Military and Communities
Partnership (SSMCP), these studies made the case for federal and state aid to address the
Lacey-to-Lakewood chokepoints. TRPC received a federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation (TCSP) grant to develop an I-5 Congestion Relief Action Plan with our WSDOT partners and in conjunction with Pierce Transit.

The Transportation Policy Board (TPB) considered high capacity transportation alternatives in a five part series of interviews with road, rail and bus agency executives. TRPC and TPB policy makers met with Pierce County representatives to the Sound Transit board to explore potential service connections to the Thurston Region. As a result, Intercity Transit’s Mike Harbour, TRPC’s Lon Wyrick and Sound Transit’s Ric Ilgenfritz co-authored a white paper on issues surrounding rail and bus connections.

Federal requirements for interchange analysis are intensive, comprehensive and take a
long time to complete. It is unusual for three such studies to be closely spaced along a corridor, as they are between Lacey and Lakewood, reflecting the challenging
circumstances on I-5 in this area. The three analyses span seven interchanges, three in Thurston County: I-5/US 101, I-5/ Martin Way and I-5/Martin Road. Local, state and federal agency staffs are working collaboratively to stitch together these studies into a cohesive part of the corridor analysis.

Physical Improvements Well in excess of $20 million in leveraged investments (including federal and state funds) are being used for physical improvements to increase I-5 efficiency between Lacey and Lakewood. Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) opened a new south gate which made a marked improvement on I-5. Soon WSDOT will turn on ramp meters for I-5
interchanges in north Thurston County to better regulate the flow of traffic. WSDOT recently received a TIGER III grant to make a host of changes along I-5 in Thurston and Pierce counties. The Department of Defense (DOD) provided grant funds to the City of Lakewood to improve access to the Madigan medical facility, with activities concentrated around Berkeley
Street. Intercity Transit and Pierce Transit are taking advantage of a State Legislature set aside to purchase vanpool vehicles specifically to serve JBLM.

From the Executive Director…
Revenues are down. Budgets are tight. Recognizing this strained economic environment we have all been dealing with for the past three years, the TRPC and TPB have remained committed to taking aggressive regional actions. Yes, all our members have become more efficient in their agencies’ budgets and operations, but they have also joined together, as Council and Policy Board members, to establish aggressive regional goals and work programs which benefit our region’s many transportation needs.

Throughout last year, TRPC and TPB worked very hard to position our region to take
advantage of new program and funding opportunities. This work has moved many of
the region’s transportation regional priorities forward. This hard work is paying off as the “Focus on I-5” article (above) shows. TRPC’s consistent leadership and support for improving I-5 in the South Sound helped create a coalition which in attracting federal and state funding for the needed projects.

Through the aggressive actions of our regional leaders, these projects are having positive impacts on our region’s transportation challenges and are establishing the necessary planning base for continued improvements in the region’s transportation network.

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