Drive by Joint Base Lewis McChord at the wrong time of day and you’ll find yourself caught in the JBLM backup. Traffic around the base moves notoriously slow and some say it’s the worst choke point found on Interstate 5.
“I think there are those who have made that case based on data,” said 10th district congressional representative Denny Heck. “There are a lot of choke points between Vancouver, B.C. and Tijuana, Mexico, this is one of the worst.”
I-5 narrows from four lanes north and south of the base down to three lanes stretching for six miles directly adjacent to JBLM. The comings and goings of tens of thousands of soldiers, civilian contractors and families living on base blend with I-5 traffic between Tacoma and Olympia to create miles of stop and go driving in either direction.
Heck wants to fix the problem. So he’s authored the Commute Act, an acronym for Creating Opportunities for Military Members to Use Transportation Efficiently. The bill would authorized highway grants totaling $600 million between 2015 and 2019 to improve traffic tie ups around military bases across the country, including JBLM.
The Vancouver, Washington democrat said despite a “toxic” political environment in Washington, D.C., the Commute Act is already winning some bipartisan support. “Potholes or congested roads, they’re not democratic problems or republican problems. They’re everybody’s problem,” said Heck.
If the act passes Heck said states would apply for federal funds to improve highways around military bases. He said JBLM could see work begin as early as 2016.