FIFE, Wash. — The four-lane Wapato Way East Bridge and new State Route 99 roundabout over Interstate 5 made its debut in late June and is now open to traffic, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
“This important step forward in the Puget Sound Gateway Program brings us that much closer to improving connections to our ports and distribution centers,” said Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee. “Hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state depend on trade — from the farms of eastern Washington to the industrial centers of Puget Sound. We are investing in a future that will keep Washington products competitive on a global scale and provide new transportation choices for all.”
According to WSDOT, the newly opened Wapato Way East Bridge doubles the capacity of the two-lane bridge it replaces. The multi-lane roundabout on State Route 99 also reduces delays for drivers and freight haulers heading to and from the Port of Tacoma.
“It’s exciting to see this milestone in the Puget Sound Gateway Program,” said Washington State Transportation Secretary Roger Millar. “It sets the stage for us to complete critical infrastructure to benefit all travelers and illustrates how WSDOT considers freight, commuters and active transportation in our projects. This program enhances the economic competitiveness of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma and helps create family-wage paying jobs in close proximity to residential areas in South King and Pierce counties, shortening commutes for workers and providing multimodal alternatives to driving alone to Seattle.”
The bridge and roundabout replace the nearby 70th Avenue East Bridge, which is now closed and are expected to be removed. According to a statement from WSDOT, the project is a milestone in the Puget Sound Gateway Program’s State Route 167 Completion Project, which will eventually extend the route between Puyallup, Washington, and the Port of Tacoma.
Although drivers can now use the Wapato Way East Bridge, construction will continue through the summer to extend the nearby Interurban Trail and connect it to a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bike-friendly path on the bridge.
Kickoff of the next stage of State Route 167 construction, the building of a new 2-mile-long highway between I-5 and the Port of Tacoma, is planned for 2022.
“To stay competitive, we must respond to the needs of the shipping industry and the demands of the economy for greater maritime efficiency,” said Port of Tacoma Commissioner Dick Marzano. “Road investments like the completion of SR 167 are key to port connectivity, helping to ensure that we continue to serve as an economic engine for Pierce County and the state while also easing congestion.”
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