AngelaJossy's Blog

Oct. 23, 2008 at 2:58pm

Exit 132

What is your freakin' problem???

I live in Lakewood so when I come to Tacoma I often take I-5 to Exit 132 (Bremerton/HWY 16) and jump off at Sprague Street so I can drive downhill when I reach downtown instead of up. (I drive a stick shift and stop lights are a pain in the butt when driving up hill plus I rationalize that I'm also saving gas by driving down hill.) 

Taking exit 132 is a crap shoot. Its the fastest easiest way to downtown Tacoma and 6th Ave when there's no traffic but if there's even a little bit of traffic it become a major bottleneck. Why doesn't someone fix this exit?

The problem is there are three lanes that must merge into one before merging onto Highway 16. Selfish drivers refuse to get in line and wait until the last minute to merge. People who waited in line like they were supposed to tend to not be very happy about slowing down to allow the selfish drivers to cut in line. Traffic backs up all the way back to 38th Street. This completely avoidable fiasco can add up to 10-15 minutes to my Tacoma commute.

Why doesn't someone re-engineer this exit? There must be a better way.

comments [14]  |  posted under 6th ave, downtown, exit 132, sprague street, Tacoma, traffic, transportation


by izenmania on 10/23/2008 @ 3:26pm
People who waited in line like they were supposed to tend to not be very happy about slowing down to allow the selfish drivers to cut in line.

Actually, this is a misconception. Merging lanes are not intended to be "get to the back of the line" situations. They are as long as they are to allow the merge to be spread out. Bottlenecks occur when everyone is focused on either end of the merge... either all trying to get in at the front, or at the back. The goal of such a lane is to have everyone able to merge at speed. if you have to wait for a spot at the front or the back, your merge will slow the whole process.

Unfortunately, the people in the lane getting joined understand this just as little as the people trying to merge most of the time. They take it personally when someone tries to merge in front of them, largely because they share the misguided belief that "waiting in line" was what they were supposed to do.

This may be a localized phenomenon... Whenever I have visitors from California they are amazed that no one up here seems to know how to use a merging lane.

by Jake on 10/23/2008 @ 3:29pm
They are working on it. I believe they just put the first phase of the Nalley Valley Viaduct out to bid.

"People who waited in line like they were supposed to tend to not be very happy about slowing down to allow the selfish drivers to cut in line."

This issue was in the TNT a while back and it said it is perfectly fine to drive until the end and merge. I know people don't like it when people wait until the last minute but they aren't breaking any laws. (fyi I am one of the people who wait in line.)

by AngelaJossy on 10/23/2008 @ 3:42pm
Apparently I'm not the only one who has been annoyed by this. Its this whole big project already:

by AngelaJossy on 10/23/2008 @ 3:44pm
Izenmania: thanks for that perspective. I never thought of it like that.

by izenmania on 10/23/2008 @ 3:47pm
Not that you should take my word for how to drive on the freeway of course... I've never owned a car, and I don't think I've driven more than like 10 miles in the last year.

by AngelaJossy on 10/23/2008 @ 4:45pm
Great, here I am complaining that its too slow but after reading up on it I found out that the solution means that pretty soon it will be closed completely until 2011-2013. By then will we even drive cars anymore?

Nevermind. I guess I'll just have to go back to hop-scotch driving through the maze of potholes on South Tacoma Way.

by izenmania on 10/23/2008 @ 4:53pm
Who needs freeways, anyway? With the freshly painted bike lanes it's getting easier and easier to ride from Lakewood to downtown ;)

by jcbetty on 10/23/2008 @ 7:40pm
I like taking Tyler/Stevens in to S 19th, when I'm doing the Lakewood thing. Or, Bridgeport to 67th/Mildred, to 19th/12th. Both are downhill routes into downtown, and pretty straightforward.

I don't like the freeway, and it seems like whether I go City Center or 16, I always get into pissy traffic situations. Signif one, a California driver (no, not necessarily a bad thing; more, a "more experienced on freeways" thing) put the merge thing to me this way: "lighten up, Francis. The right lane closes when it closes. No point in backing the left up miles earlier when there are two usable lanes up to that point."

good karma is good karma, smile, let a person in, and listen to tunes you can sing along to full-belt. Or, take back roads and don't get caught in back-ups :)

by nicolef on 10/23/2008 @ 8:31pm
I second the backroad route to Lakewood, 67th/Mildred is my fave. Backroads most anywhere. I live just a few blocks from Sprague and avoid that stretch of freeway at all costs. I'd rather jump off an exit early and save myself the stress ( and my children from the profanities). Why can't we all just get along????

by Courtney on 10/23/2008 @ 9:21pm
I live right off 38th Street so I use this on ramp to 16 every single day almost. I have gotten into flip off wars with other moms in minivans because they don't want me to merge. It's pretty annoying not to mention dangerous at times. Glad to hear it's going to possibly fixed at some point because it's a very fast route for us to take.

I wish I was a biker but hauling around a preschooler and a toddler on a bike...I dunno maybe people do it.

by jcbetty on 10/23/2008 @ 9:44pm
Courtney: ever gone down 38th to 7? (I think) to Pac Ave? --seems pretty quick, times I've been lost (rerouted) that way...

by Courtney on 10/23/2008 @ 11:04pm
JC- yes I do go that way periodically but I use 16 to get to North Orchard for my son's preschool. So the 7 isn't as fast. Or gosh when I need my Target fix I gotta go 16 to Union STAT.

by NSHDscott on 10/23/2008 @ 11:22pm
Here's my pet peeve with the merging from N I-5 onto W 16: People who merge too early!

In a perfect world, the two lanes would have an equal number of cars, and the cars would wait until the very end, and then the right lane would merge into the left, taking turns. Everyone waits the same length of time. I like to think of it as a zipper.

What happens in our case is that the left lane already has more cars. Then some cars in the right lane merge early, and the cars behind them shoot ahead to the correct spot and end up merging ahead of the one that merged early. If half the cars merge early and let the other half ahead of them to the zipper spot, then 2 cars in the emptier lane merge for every 1 car in the fuller lane. This can easily lead to wait times 4-5 times longer in the left lane than the right.

At the least, WADOT could erect a sign instructing people to wait to merge under they are under the overpass. That would help balance the wait times.

Ultimately, that's just a workaround -- I totally agree that merge sucks and I look forward to the re-do (although it'll take forever and make things worse before they get better).

by jcbetty on 10/23/2008 @ 11:27pm
ahh, Courtney-- say no more: N Orchard, preschool.
@NSHD...--I agree, early merges are just as bad as late rushers. either botches the system (as my mate points out.)