Washington DOT opens Wapato Way East Bridge over I-5

June 29, 2021

New bridge opening marks the start of a travel transformation in south Puget Sound

A new bridge over I-5 made its debut in Fife, Washington, opening to traffic with a promise to improve travel in this busy freight corridor.

The four-lane Wapato Way East Bridge and new State Route 99 roundabout replace the nearby 70th Avenue East Bridge, which is now closed to vehicle traffic.

Opening the new bridge and roundabout to traffic is a significant milestone in the Puget Sound Gateway Program’s SR 167 Completion Project, which will eventually extend SR 167 between Puyallup and the Port of Tacoma. This video explains how the stages of SR 167 construction fit together.

Although drivers can now use the Wapato Way East Bridge, construction will continue through the summer to extend the nearby Interurban Trail and connect it to a 12-ft-wide pedestrian and bike-friendly path on the bridge. In the short term, people on foot and wheels will be able to cross I-5 using the old 70th Avenue East Bridge.

Benefits of the bridge replacement project:

  • The Wapato Way East Bridge doubles the capacity of the two-lane bridge it replaces.
  • The multi-lane roundabout on SR 99 reduces delays for drivers and freight haulers heading to and from the Port of Tacoma.
  • Improvements make it easier to walk and bike in the area, including a paved path on the bridge, 400 feet of new Interurban Trail and a half-mile of new sidewalks.
  • Clears the way for the Washington State Department of Transportation to remove the old 70th Avenue East Bridge, which was in the path of future SR 167 construction.

The next stage of SR 167 construction starts in 2022 and builds a new 2-mile highway between I-5 and the Port of Tacoma with a new paved path alongside it.  

Several WSDOT officials and other stakeholders commented on the progress of the Gateway Program:

Governor Jay Inslee: “This important step forward in the Puget Sound Gateway Program brings us that much closer to improving connections to our ports and distribution centers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state depend on trade - from the farms of eastern Washington to the industrial centers of Puget Sound. We are investing in a future that will keep Washington products competitive on a global scale and provide new transportation choices for all.”

Transportation Secretary Roger Millar: “It’s exciting to see this milestone in the Puget Sound Gateway Program. It sets the stage for us to complete critical infrastructure to benefit all travelers and illustrates how WSDOT considers freight, commuters, and active transportation in our projects. This program enhances the economic competitiveness of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma and helps create family-wage paying jobs in close proximity to residential areas in South King and Pierce counties, shortening commutes for workers and providing multimodal alternatives to driving alone to Seattle.”

Rep. Jake Fey D-Tacoma: “This is about more than cutting a ribbon on a bridge. It’s about connecting the Port of Tacoma to the rest of the state in a way that will speed up traffic and create jobs across the state of Washington for generations.”

Pierce County Councilmember Hans Zeiger, former state senator: “The opening of the Wapato Way East Bridge marks an important step toward completion of SR 167. This bridge symbolizes the power of bipartisan collaboration as well as years of advocacy by local and regional leaders who believed in this project.”

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier: “The opening of the new bridge is an exciting and important next step in connecting our local businesses with the Port of Tacoma. By making it faster and easier to get Pierce County goods to the places that want them, we are bolstering our local economy.”

Port of Tacoma Commissioner Dick Marzano: “To stay competitive, we must respond to the needs of the shipping industry and the demands of the economy for greater maritime efficiency. Road investments like the completion of SR 167 are key to port connectivity, helping to ensure that we continue to serve as an economic engine for Pierce County and the state while also easing congestion.”

Fife City Councilmember Pat Hulcey: “As a life-long resident of Fife, I know what a huge milestone the Wapato Way bridge project is. Fife has grown to a city of 10,000 and with our proximity to the Port of Tacoma, has become a major freight route. The newly completed Wapato Way bridge will bring much-needed improvements to traffic through Fife now and into the future.” 

About the Puget Sound Gateway Program

The Puget Sound Gateway Program combines the SR167 Completion Project in Pierce County and the SR 509 Completion Project in King County under one program. Together, these projects will complete two missing links in the Washington state highway network, provide critical new freight connections, and will move goods and people more reliably through the Puget Sound region, Washington state, and beyond.


News and photo source: Washington State Department of Transportation