Commuters in Edgewood and Milton will see relief along a crowded stretch of Meridian Avenue East as a new roundabout and corresponding streets open to traffic Wednesday.
A $5.3 million realignment project, launched by both cities in collaboration with the state, includes a traffic roundabout on Jovita Boulevard that will funnel vehicles to a new intersection and relieve congestion. It is Edgewood’s first roundabout.
Planning started in 2006, and construction began in February.
The road will open following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday.
Edgewood City Manager Mark Bauer said the benefits of the project aren’t limited to Edgewood and Milton, which together have nearly 16,400 residents.
“This is a regional improvement,” he said.
Meridian is the main thoroughfare on state Route 161, which runs from Federal Way to Eatonville. It’s the primary route for Edgewood and Milton residents traveling down to the Puyallup Valley. And it provides access to destinations such as Mount Rainier and major arterials such as state Route 167, state Route 18 and Interstate 5.
Although surrounding roads were accessible during construction, Bauer said it did affect at least three businesses that had barricades blocking drive-by traffic.
But he said the finished project could infuse economic growth in the area.
“We’re hoping development will occur as a result of these improvements,” Bauer said.
Victor Hernandez is the general manager of O’Reilly Auto Parts, located near the new roundabout. He said all the affected businesses nearby are looking forward to the end of construction.
“I think (the improvements) might make the town a little bit more popular and actually help the businesses out,” he said.
Bauer said the impetus of the project was chronic traffic jams at two Meridian intersections — one at Eighth Street East, the other at Jovita. The intersections were located only about 340 feet apart, he said, causing peak-travel backups on a span that carries between 23,000 and 25,000 vehicles on an average day.
The roundabout was constructed slightly east of Meridian to redirect traffic north to a new intersection.
Improvements included removing the traffic signal from the Meridian-Jovita intersection and installing a new signal at Meridian and Emerald Street, which was extended east to connect to Jovita at the new roundabout.
Also, Emerald and 28th Avenue to the west in Milton were reconstructed to better connect the increased traffic to Milton Way and provide adequate width, sidewalks and lighting, among other improvements.
The state Transportation Improvement Board contributed $4.5 million to the project. Edgewood kicked in about $745,000.
Milton spent about $551,000 on relocation of the city’s waterline and improvements to the Milton Way-28th Avenue intersection, said Public Works director Letticia Neal.
Steve Gorcester, executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board, said the improvements won’t solve all congestion problems on the highway, especially with other construction still happening in the area. But they’re a step in the right direction, he said.
“Meridian is a key north-south corridor, and the closely spaced intersections were causing a lot of additional congestion,” Gorcester said.
Landscaping work still needs to be completed this year, Bauer said.
Officials are glad to finally open the road for commuters, he said.
“The city really appreciates the patience of our citizens here in Edgewood and the citizens of Milton as we worked on this important project for both communities,” Bauer said.
IF YOU GO
What: Jovita realignment ribbon cutting.
When: 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Where: O’Reilly Auto Parts parking lot at 505 Meridian Ave. E., Edgewood.