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New SR-16 on-ramp planned

Crews building a second bridge across the Tacoma Narrows will now add another on-ramp to the highway approaching the bridge, work that will increase the total cost of the project but hopefully reduce traffic backups, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The ramp, which will connect to eastbound State Route 16 at 24th Street NW, will be restricted to motorists paying tolls electronically because vehicles using the ramp will bypass the tollbooths.

DOT officials said the decision to build the ramp — which is expected to cost $7.5 million — was made after studying the potential positive impacts it might have on traffic in the area and assessing public opinion about an added ramp.

“The community really told us they favored adding in this ramp,” said Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald. “We needed to study the issue and make sure it made sense for the bridge, which it does.”

Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) agreed commuters and other drivers would benefit from the additional ramp.

“One day, I was at the (bridge) site and saw the backup and people having to go north to go south, and I said, ‘Wait a minute, there may be better option here,’ ” Oke said. “I promoted the idea of adding a 24th Street on-ramp because I know it will immensely benefit the citizens and greatly ease the flow of traffic on secondary streets of Gig Harbor and approaching the bridge.”

Construction of the new on-ramp will begin this summer, and it will open to traffic simultaneously with the new bridge opening in April 2007.

Design-builder Tacoma Narrows Constructors will design and build the ramp under a change order to the original bridge contract, and it will be funded from unused contingency amounts provided for in the project’s original estimated $849 million cost.

Once built, it will be metered during peak morning commute hours and other times as necessary along with the other five eastbound on-ramps between SR 302 (Purdy) and the bridge.

For more information on the new bridge, visit www.tacomanarrowsbridge.com.

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