The city of Lakewood will apply for $5.7 million in federal money to make short-term fixes to a congested interchange that connects Madigan Army Medical Center and Interstate 5.
The Berkeley Avenue interchange serves Madigan, Camp Murray and the Tillicum neighborhood. Despite significant traffic growth over the years, particularly to and from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, there has not been a significant upgrade to the interchange since its construction at least 50 years ago.
One fix would stop motorists headed to Madigan during the morning rush hour from backing up onto interstate by adding a second southbound offramp.
Others would speed up the drive for service members and others headed into Tillicum for the lunch hour by adding a third lane on the bridge and making improvements to the intersection of Berkeley and Union Avenue. The city estimates they would reduce the average delay for motorists using the overpass from more than 10 minutes to 35 seconds during the lunch hour.
“This is wonderful for working to unsnarl a huge problem,” Councilman Walter Neary said.
The City Council authorized the grant application with a unanimous vote Monday night. The application deadline is Friday.
The federal Office of Economic Adjustment is providing $300 million for transportation projects associated with military hospitals on installations impacted by closures, mergers or other force adjustments Congress ordered in 2005. The agency assists communities who have seen significant growth or loss of personnel stemming from those changes.
Jeff Gonzalez, a city engineer, was confident the city would secure the money because the project meets all the selection criteria and has strong political support. The Washington State Department of Transportation, Pierce County, and the offices of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray will voice support for the application, he said.
The city does not have to put up its own money to secure the grant.
The fixes are short-term. A study released a year ago recommended reconstructing Berkeley and three other interchanges serving Lewis-McChord to help reduce I-5 traffic congestion through the military installation. The entire project could take 10 to 15 years to complete. The Berkeley interchange project is estimated to cost $22 million to $72 million, the study said.
The council directed that application identify the overpass as Freedom Bridge. The state renamed the span in 2006 to honor the thousands of service members who crossed it as they deployed overseas.