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Nalley Valley interchange opens for business

Post by John Henrikson / The News Tribune on June 26, 2011 at 10:31 am with 29 Comments »
June 26, 2011 12:49 pm

After years of waiting, motorists from Interstate 5 can use the spiffy new off ramp to State Route 16 and access Sprague Avenue. The exits were open this morning as scheduled.

The $184 million project is designed to eliminate the “weave” that led to frequent backups and accidents at the interchange.

I confirmed the opening on my way in to work this morning, eager to try the new “L” shaped exit from Highway 16 to Sprague. I’ll say this: When they say slow down to 15 mph at the hairpin turn, they mean it.

For more on the project – and what’s left to come – see Rob Carson’s earlier story here. Also, WSDOT has a thorough web section devoted to everything you’d want to know about it here.

If you drive the route or have been affected by the detours and closures the past three years, we’d like to hear from you.

• Does the revamped project make your trip better?

• Do you see and problems?

• Was it worth the wait?

Send your thoughts to reporter Stacia Glenn at

Leave a comment Comments → 29
  1. SPanaway1 says:

    I hope we don’t have to start counting Sprague “L” projectiles!

  2. skippythedog says:

    Enlighten me please, someone…..Is that riduculous 90 degree turn the big “mistake” they made….And that’s how they salvaged it?

  3. kevin22262 says:

    skippy … No. That was a less expensive alternative, that is why they built it that way. Remember… people “hate” taxes and are always finding anyway they can to beat up on the WADOT, even tho they do a great job with less and less money.

    Also, that 90 will eventually be a T.

  4. kevin22262 says:

    To all of you people who like to complain but usually never have the facts. Try following this link:

    Look for: … “Curious about how the “Sprague T” interchange will work? Check out this .wmv file showing a simulation of SR 16 through the Nalley Valley after we have completed all our work. ”

    The DOT has a great website that is very in depth. Most people seem to ignore it and would rather complain about things instead of being informed.

    Information is a powerful tool … if you choose to seek it out… and use it.

  5. scoatesw says:

    ummm, how does it at all make sense to build a highway configuration where you have to slow down to 15mph from highway speeds? Seems to me this could contribute some to bottlenecking, not only on the Sprague exit, but also for traffic continuing on Hwy 16, as they will observe brake lights and naturally think they have to slow as well.

  6. Is that the same T, as in Trouble? Since there were going to be cost overuns anyway,why didn’t they make the hiway 16 east off ramp viaduct over hiway 16 west? That would eliminate the T and the 90 degree turn.It seems the State knows the voters hate taxes but still find ways to blow the budget.

  7. psycodug says:

    It looks stupid and as a citizen of washington I am Embarrased!! , it cost too much, NO !! it was not worth the wait or the money. The mistake they made costing over one million to “Fix” was an exposed error, how many went undisclosed ??

  8. Pecksbadboy says:

    Kevin2262 must work for DOT.

    Go read how wonderful the DOT is and how they use our money Soooooooooo wisely until they get sued and have to fire somone over class action law suits that cost taxpayers millions.

  9. chamoru1 says:

    @ kevin22262 …. Thanks for the link…you are so right! lol!

  10. Kevindot1 says:

    I am excited to go drive on it. And, I be the people who will actively use the new Nalley Valley Viaduct will appreciate it. Especially not being merged down to one lane from NB I-5 to WB HWY-16!! That will be huge because that is going from one freeway to another freeway, not a freeway to a surface street as in the Sprague T.

  11. FlyingTigress says:

    (shakes head)

    You’d think that folks had never seen a “diamond” interchange – where the other ramp (in this case, the on-ramp to EB 16) hasn’t yet been constructed.

    Whole lotta “bliss” going on, here. As in “… is bliss”

    Now for the second phase: the EB 16 viaduct. Not looking forward to 2 more years of construction, and the interim ramps (judging from the photo simulations at WSDOTs website) to get onto NB 5 dring construction, but, hey…

  12. capealava says:

    Sounds like we have a lot of highway-planning experts posting to this comment section… people who understand how to design freeway interchanges.

    Your ability to post snarkey comments on a newspaper site doesn’t give you credibility. Convince us that you’ve done some research and understand things and you’ll gain that credibility. “It looks stupid” and other equally “thoughtful” comments don’t convince me.

    Do I like that the DOT screwed up, resulting in wasted money? No, obviously not. But if you think you can do better, then do something about it. If you care so much, do something more than the minimal effort to simply post an uninformed opinion.

  13. willzhunnie says:

    OMG…took the exit this morning from Hwy 16 to Sprague…for the first and last time!!! Hopefully, the DOT will reconsider this configuration…I cannot imagine the fatalities we will have with this design. I was not in rush hour traffic…but cannot imagine how bad it will be. 15 mph….are you kidding me??

  14. jcalexander says:

    I went out Sunday about 8AM to play with my new toy since I live just off Sprague…NB I-5 to WB 16 looks to be a great improvement. They were still laying down striping so couldn’t use the SB I-5 interchange…I would hope that the drivers who think they can exit from the second-from-left lane will realize they aren’t likely to be able to cross 4 lanes of traffic between the I-705 gore point and the new viaduct on-ramp safely. If the collision rate goes up in that area it’ll wash out most of the advantages of the new viaduct.

    The offramp from EB 16 will be challenging but the exit from WB 16 isn’t a piece of cake either. I just hope that the barrier on the EB exit is fastened down better than it looks. When they get the ramp from that thing to EB 16 completed, with it’s stoplight…yikes…

  15. FlyingTigress says:

    jcalexander: the crews started pulling the barrels about 8:50, so a few folks cut in (smile) and used the SB ramp. This is going to be a nice improvement, but it’ll be nice to see how things work on a weekday.

  16. PumainTacoma says:

    Sprague Exit a waste!

  17. PumainTacoma says:

    We gave up having a carpool lane (you greenies) for Sprague… Wow

  18. Kevindot1 says:

    I just drove across and back a couple times….love it! The Sprague exit from EB 16 will just take a little getting used to, but overall I think it will work out well. And, it’s just nice to have the Sprague exits back. The WB Sprague exit is as smooth as a babies behind! And the WB 16 exchange from NB I-5 is worth the price of admission!! that is where the real improvements are! that was the best!!

  19. capealava says:

    The Sprague “T” looks like the vast majority of exits in the world where you come to an intersection when you exit. We’re just used to the old way it was where the intersection was further away. And it’s different in that the intersection is up in the air so it feels wierd. Sooner or later, any exit will require you to slow down… unless it’s freeway to freeway, which this isn’t. This reminds me of the off and on ramps just north of the 320th exit in Fed Way and those work fine. And I think this will be fine too.

  20. Frankly123 says:

    Yeah, they had a 90 degree exit off one of the Seattle freeway bridges that they removed because it was not a safe design. Helloooooo…..anyone at the DOT listening themselves talk?

  21. The Sprague L lives until the first vehicle does a dive through/over the barrier. If it just kills the car occupants, they’ll block the off ramp. If it kills anyone below, or if someone decides to leave this life with a swan dive, the ramp will be torn down.

    No matter what, this is a tort lawyer’s dream.

  22. I’m amazed at all of the complaints about the EB 16 to Sprague exit. Like someone else already said, check out the DOT site. What is currently there is an unfinished product.

  23. FlyingTigress says:


    Which carpool lane? The lanes that willn with Phase 3 will have HOV-to-HOV direct ramps to/from NB 5?

    “Deep is the hate for that Sprague interchange in pumaintacoma” /Yoda, P.E.

  24. Here’s what I saw at 5:30 PM on Sunday:

    1. Going eastbound on Highway 16 I was surprised to see the 40mph sign still up at Union?

    2. The next thing I saw was an electronic sign stating that CONSTRUCTION at I-5 & SR 512 was causing delays

    3. The last thing i noticed before i made an unplanned exit at Union was the parking lot that Highway 16 had become.

    I’ll comment on the new Sprague exits & I5 interchange if i ever get to see it!

    If this wasn’t so pathetic, it would be hilarious.

    I think we should fire the ENTIRE DOT & start from scratch. What a bad joke.

  25. willcole says:

    I don’t know what the fuss is all about concerning the 90degree turn from hwy 16 to Sprague is about. Look at it another way, it will be a tourist spot an a place to sell lemonade and Hotdogs. I took a tour of from I-5 to Sprague and found the 40mph and the blind turns, refreshing.. Although coming from Sprague to East bound towards I-5 it was a Heart breaking as you can only go to Gig Harbor. There are no signs at 19th and Sprague informing anyone that this is a freeway entrance nor that there is no way to get to I-5 exept for a sign up the road and around the curve that you are now heading toward Gig Harbor. So you still have to go Union ave, get off, turn left to get to the East bound entrance, get back on and join the standstill traffic and hope the Hotdog vendor has cold soda to go along with hotdog! On a so far good note the south bound I-5 to Hwy 16 traffic parking lot seems to be gone…..

  26. dbreneman says:

    I’m one who distrusts government as a Pavlovian response, but to hear all the sidewalk superintendents here grousing about the Sprague exit when they haven’t even driven it is dumbfounding. Cars sailing off the ramp into space? Why do I get the suspicion that the majority of the nay-sayers are the type of driver who hog the left lane going under the speed limit, never touch their turn signals unless they’re in a turn-only lane, or who think that if the car in front of them comes to a stop, they can follow it through the stop sign. Of course, that’s only a guess, but it’s not the job of highway engineers to coddle idiots, and those who feel it necessary to be coddled behind the wheel ought to take the bus.

  27. dannymanny says:

    Its horrible! The eastbound off ramp to Sprague is a death trap. I see one red car has already smashed into the wall. I just about went into the wall myself. The south bound on ramp going west on 16 is worse than it was before with the big merge at Sprague the union. They must have figured all the people that use 16 live in Tacoma? I don’t get it. The state should be ashamed of the job they did. Really horrible.

  28. dannymanny says:

    If anyone thinks that the Sprague off ramp is adequate they need to go drive it. Its horrible. People will die there for sure. It aint coddling people need. Its a better Sprague street off ramp. Its Damn Horrible.!!!!!!

  29. EngineNear says:

    Someone allready said it, but the Sprague T is very similar to, but just a bit higher in the air than, the 317th T for the HOV on/off ramp in Federal Way. Other differences are, that Sprague will be signalized while 317 has a 3 way stop sign control, and the ramp to Sprague from EB 16 is a bit shorter with a more abrubt grade change from what I can tell. Maybe they should put a stop sign until the interchange is finished that might help. Long term, they could lengthen the ramp, I know that the mistake has already cost a bit, but if there is a safety concern whith poeple not decelerating fast enough it could be solved quite simply.

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