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Series of car crashes on I-5 in Tacoma prompts State Patrol to issue warning

tacoma traffic

TACOMA, Wash. -- A serious warning from the state patrol and transportation department has been issued to watch out for the I-5 work zone in Tacoma. There have been several serious crashes in the last month that have shut down the freeway for hours.

It is the stretch between the Tacoma Dome and the Tacoma Mall where the freeway narrows for construction. It has been this way since May, but the difference now is that it's getting darker earlier and the rains have returned with serious consequences.

There were three horrendous crashes, starting September 30 when a semi crashed into the concrete Jersey Barriers, pushing them into the oncoming traffic.

Lucas Holmes says he had nowhere to go, "and so I made the decision to either hit the barrier or hit vehicles and possibly hit people so I went into the barrier."

He said other cars had already crashed ahead of him.

"As soon as I hit the barrier, airbags went off and I landed on the side," he said. "I noticed right before I hit it, a couple of people jumping out of the way."

In this stretch of road the lanes are only 11-feet wide instead of the normal 12-feet and the concrete barriers are only inches away in some spots.

The State Department of Transportation says it’s necessary to get the freeway widened with room for HOV lanes.

"We really need people to pay attention and slow down and drive for conditions," said Cara Mitchell with WSDOT.

The road construction company recently put in new reflective striping and added new reflective markers in the roadway to help in the dark rainy conditions. And in the evening and overnight hours the reader board is going to flash warnings that you're entering a construction zone.

The state patrol says to be alert.

"No cell phones and no eating," said WSP Trooper Johnna Batiste. "You've got one very important job for us to all get home on time and that is to just drive."

There really is no room for error and it's going to be this way for several more months. And there are going to be nighttime closures of lanes and ramps which will make the drive even more challenging. WSDOT has a website designed to let drivers know when and where those things will happen.

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