It’s taken 20 years of work at a cost of $66.6 million to expand the major corridor between fast-growing Frederickson and the Summit area.
Crews have widened more than four miles of Canyon Road East to six lanes and added new signals and street lights to help move commuters and trucks more safely through Pierce County.
The changes are a step toward fulfilling the regional strategy to connect the Frederickson Industrial Area with the Port of Tacoma. The county’s long-term goal is to expand and extend Canyon Road to five lanes from state Route 512 to North Levee Road. A network of other roads would continue traffic to the port.
The improvements from Route 512 to 176th Street East were completed in five segments. They were finished in mid-August with a stretch from 160th to 172nd streets.
The work has improved traffic for commuters from Frederickson to Route 512, said county engineer Brian Stacy. Before the corridor was widened, the number of vehicles on the road had exceeded capacity.
Stacy summed up the impact of the project in three words: “We solved congestion” – not only for drivers, but also for pedestrians who got sidewalks and bicyclists who can use widened road shoulders.
County leaders will celebrate the completed work Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
County Executive Pat McCarthy said the improvements “will increase capacity of the corridor, relieve traffic congestion, aid the movement of freight and goods and improve public safety.”
The projects are important for economic development and maintaining the area’s livability, she said.
The widened stretch has three lanes of traffic in each direction, plus either a two-way left turn lane in the center or a landscaped median. The wider road nearly reaches to The Boeing Co.’s commercial airplane fabrication division in Frederickson.
Canyon Road East, from 160th Street East to Route 512, handles from 39,050-49,050 vehicles per day, according to 2010 county traffic counts.
Some drivers use Canyon Road East to avoid traffic tie-ups on Meridian East (also known as state Route 161) and Pacific Avenue South (also known as state Route 7).
“We get a lot more pressure on our corridors because (drivers) avoid the state corridors,” Stacy said.
The improvements started in 1993 with design work, followed by the first construction in 2000.
Money came from county road funds, state gas tax, real estate excise tax and other sources.
More work – nearly all of it unfunded – remains to be done on other sections of Canyon Road East.
Most of Canyon north of Route 512 is two lanes, cutting through the semi-rural Summit area and providing a link for homeowners surrounded by urban development between Parkland and Puyallup.
Construction to widen a mile of that two-lane stretch – from 99th Street Court East to 84th Street East – isn’t scheduled to start until 2018. Nearly $18 million of that $20 million project is unfunded.
To preserve the existing road, the county last month resurfaced Canyon Road East north of Route 512 with an overlay from 72nd Street East to 103rd Street East.
Many Summit-area homeowners spoke out against the next stage of Canyon Road’s makeover at a public meeting in May. They were concerned that a wider road would bring more traffic, congestion and noise while eating into their properties.
But county officials say completing the connection from Frederickson to the port is necessary to ease congestion and for trucks hauling freight.
“There isn’t an uncongested straight thoroughfare and a reasonably straight route to get you to that point,” Stacy said.
WHAT: Ribbon-cutting ceremony for Canyon Road East projects.
WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: Northwest corner of Brookdale Road East and Canyon Road East.
WHO: Local officials including Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and County Council members Rick Talbert and Roger Bush.
WHAT TO KNOW: Parking is limited at the site. Carpooling is recommended.
MORE INFORMATION: bit.ly/OsrIz5.