New ramps let drivers take flight at Federal Way interchange

Crews installed steel girders over southbound I-5
 the nights of Feb. 10-11, 2012. The girders
 support new flyover ramps at the I-5/SR 18 interchange.

by guest blogger Erica Taylor

What do Olympic trials, a multinational sporting event and the world’s largest private softwood timberland owner have in common? Believe it or not, they’re all based in Federal Way. This not-so-sleepy town of Federal Way hosted the 2012 Olympic Dive Trials, the 1990 Goodwill Games and is home to Weyerhaeuser, the world’s largest private owner of softwood timberland.

Even if you’re not an elite athlete, and don’t need timber, you may take I-5 or SR 18 through Federal Way and wonder how long you’ll have to sit in traffic trying to get to Wild Waves. Wonder no more. Thanks to a partnership with local, state and federal officials, WSDOT is ready turn over a new leaf at this interchange. Actually, WSDOT is taking out the old cloverleaf ramps and replacing them with new flyover ramps. The flyover ramp is a newer design that can efficiently handle the amount of traffic at this interchange and will turn the former white-knuckle weave into an easy merge.

Watch a video of the project's progress

The I-5/SR 18 interchange is more than a stop on the Olympic road to London; it’s also a major transportation corridor for commerce and for local commuters. With 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles using each ramp daily, the previously state-of-the-art cloverleaf ramp design from the 1960s was becoming a traffic headache. Add to that a consistently growing population – Federal Way has grown from 67,304 residents in 1990 to 89,306 residents in 2010 – and WSDOT and local officials agreed that something needed to be done to revamp the ramps. After much consideration, the new flyover ramp emerged as the best option.

Construction on the first phase of improvements to the I-5/SR 18/SR 161 “triangle” interchange began in summer 2010, and crews plan to wrap up work ahead of schedule later this year. New ramps between I-5 and SR 18 will open July 16 and July 23, with other ramp improvements scheduled to open this fall. WSDOT even has plans for a next phase of construction in the area. Though that work doesn’t have a start date yet, local officials have clear ideas of what they would like to see improved.

Whether you’re transporting goods from Washington to Oregon, headed to work, or maybe just considering a trip to Wild Waves (on that one day a year that it’s warm enough to go) the new flyover ramps will make the SR 18/I-5 interchange safer and more efficient for everyone.