Camp Murray will open its new gate in Lakewood on Friday as some residents in the Tillicum neighborhood wait to see if their worst fears about increased traffic are borne out.
Officials at the headquarters of the Washington Military Department say theyve invested about $1 million in off-base traffic improvements required by the city to ensure neighbors concerns arent realized.
The new Camp Murray gate will provide a safer avenue to work for our employees and will lessen some of the current traffic challenges in the surrounding community, said Maj. Gen. Bret Daugherty, director of the Washington Military Department. We believe the new gate serves the overall best interests of Tillicum and Camp Murray.
Camp Murray is home to the Washington National Guard and the states emergency operations center. About 1,000 citizen-soldiers, airmen and civilian employees commute there each workday.
One neighbor who fought the gate project said Wednesday that the state agencys investment hasnt lessened his worries about hundreds of additional cars each day driving through his neighborhood.
Now well just try to make lemonade out of lemons, said Pat OBrien, a Tillicum resident for 40 years.
The gates opening, combined with Mondays announcement of federal approval of a plan to reroute passenger trains through Tillicum, was a double whammy for the neighborhood, OBrien said.
David Bugher, Lakewoods community development director, said the city will closely monitor the traffic flow once the gate opens. He said the military department has made a good-faith effort to meet the terms of a city permit and that Lakewood may require more work if problems arise.
The proof is in the pudding whether or not this is going to work out, Bugher said.
The city initially opposed moving the gate in 2010 but changed its stance in 2011 when the military agreed to meet conditions to address neighborhood traffic.
Bugher said Lakewood still has the authority to rescind the permit and shut down the gate if officials determine Camp Murray is not meeting its terms, he said.
The new gate is at the intersection of Portland Avenue and Boundary Street, a quarter-mile north of the old gate. Officials at the military department said the old location near the intersection of Berkeley Street and Union Avenue is unsafe due to its close proximity to the rail line and a congested Interstate 5 interchange.
Neighbors opposed the move because it will divert hundreds of cars onto Portland Avenue, Tillicums main residential street. A consultant hired by the military department estimated an increase of 900 vehicles a day down a key stretch of Portland; the neighborhood groups consultant projected more than twice that.
Residents in the gated Eagle Point neighborhood worried that backups would box them in, while the military department said the gate has enough space so vehicles wont back up onto public streets.
Neighbors appealed the citys permit that allows the gate to connect to public streets. They gave up the fight in July following the dismissal of their last appeal in Pierce County Superior Court.
There still are some loose ends, but Bugher said the military department has met the conditions imposed by the city to deter motorists from using Portland and to slow down those who do. They include construction of a roundabout and other road improvements, plus installation of signs. The military department also was required to deposit $100,000 with the city for future improvements that may be needed.
The permit required up to four raised crosswalks to be installed on Portland to slow motorists. City officials called for one raised crosswalk to start with; more may be built later, if needed, Bugher said.
The permit also required workers who repair the National Guards wheeled vehicles to move their operations from Camp Murray to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The move is under way and affects about 50 full-time employees, the military department said.
Heavy truck traffic will continue to use the old Camp Murray gate.
Meanwhile, crews are still finishing a paved biking and walking path on North Thorne Lane, which connects I-5 to Portland Avenue from near the interchange to Harry Todd Park.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390 firstname.lastname@example.org @TNTchill