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To ease what the Washington State Department of Transportation describes as chronic morning commute congestion, crews are now installing several ramp meters along eastbound State Route 16 from Purdy to the Tacoma Narrrows Bridge.
Designed to help peak-hour traffic moving, the five ramps will operate at the Purdy, Burnham, Wollocett, Olympic and 36th Street ramps. The stop-and-go signals will direct drivers to pause on red, and merge with traffic on the green.
In particular, WSDOT reports that the ramp from SR-302 has the highest hourly traffic volume of any ramp that approaches the Narrows, and claims that metering this spot is essential for effectively managing traffic demand and flow in the corridor.
WSDOT officials said the major goal of ramp metering is to keep the freeway moving at a reasonable speed, and said traffic studies revealed that metered ramps along the SR-16 corridor between SR-302 and 36th Street will reduce travel time between the five ramps and the west bridge approach.
Although these meters are expected to help manage traffic flow during the heaviest congestion time between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., officials said they will not eliminate congestion. Traffic delays are expected to remain an issue until the new bridge opens in two years, but WSDOT said experts do expect the meters to smooth out the flow and reduce the length of time that highway traffic is in a stop-and-go condition.
After they are installed, all five meters will turn on simultaneously.
WSDOT reports that the five locations were chosen because the majority of morning traffic approaching the bridge from the west during the weekday commute enters the freeway at those spots.
However, officials also reported that meters will not only improve traffic flow at those spots, but will significantly improve the overall operation of the corridor.
For the time being, the eastbound-metered ramps will not have carpool bypass lanes. However, once the parallel bridges and roadway are in final configuration, WSDOT plans to introduce carpool bypass lanes at Olympic Drive and 36th Street.