This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
When the second Narrows Bridge opened in 2007, Tacoma-area commuters celebrated: Virtually overnight the regular rush-hour backup on state Route 16 had become a thing of the past.
But like the movie monster that just won’t die, the nightmare is back – and apparently not going away any time soon.
A state Department of Transportation construction project is under way to get rid of the infamous Nalley Valley viaduct “weave.” That was the dangerous maneuver that took place when northbound Interstate 5 drivers wanted to merge onto state Route 16 at the same time traffic from southbound I-5 was trying to take the Sprague Avenue exit.
During construction of a new, safer viaduct, the interim traffic plan is forcing two lanes of southbound I-5 to squeeze into one lane as they merge onto state Route 16.
The result: huge backups on I-5, heavy traffic on alternative routes, angry drivers and dangerous line-jumping by those who figure their time is more valuable than that of all those chumps willing to wait their turn. The cheaters stay in the exit lane for South 38th Street until the last second, then bully their way into the single line of traffic merging onto state Route 16.
Sometimes they just stop and wait until someone lets them in – which holds up drivers who really do want to take the South 38th Street exit. Not surprisingly, those drivers get angry and lay on their horns.
DOT officials say they studied different options for the temporary traffic pattern and that the “squeeze” is the one that causes the least congestion. Try telling that to the drivers who are getting caught in the “squeeze” every day.
DOT says it will monitor the problem and perhaps tweak it if it doesn’t improve. We’ll hold them to that.
One idea the department is considering should be a no-brainer: Put up more signage warning drivers against line-jumping – and the minimum $124 ticket they could get.
Of course, that will only have an effect if the State Patrol actually gives out tickets — a lot of them. Drivers may have to kill time waiting in a long line of traffic, but they at least could get some satisfaction out of seeing line-jumpers getting their just deserts.