The permanent takeover of Milwaukee Way between East 11th Street and Lincoln Avenue on the Tacoma Tideflats, first proposed in 1994, may finally be moving forward.
The road vacation is being prompted by a space squeeze brought on by the arrival of the Grand Alliance containership consortium to the port last year.
When that alliance of four shipping lines began calling on the port's Washington United Terminal a year ago July, the port needed space for trucks hauling containers to and from the terminal to queue up while waiting to enter the terminal. The port converted a former auto import storage lot on Port of Tacoma Road to the waiting lot.
That caused the port to move auto storage to another lot near Milwaukee Way, said Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina. That arrangement, however, crowded the intermodal loading and unloading activities at the port's South Intermodal Yard.
The port now needs the road right-of-way to expand that yard and to allow container hostlers to move containers to and from the trains without driving on a public road.
In order to drive on that public road even briefly, the Longshore Union hostler drivers would have to obtain commercial drivers licenses, said Mattina.
The City of Tacoma, which owns the roadway, has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed road takeover at 1 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Tacoma City Council chambers.
The city had previously held a public hearing on the street takeover some 13 years ago, but the city in a memo to the City Council said the 13-year gap between the original hearing and the council's consideration of selling the street called for a new hearing.
The port and the city failed to move forward on the street vacation after the 2000 hearing. The two governmental entities had first reached an agreement in 1994 to vacate the street, but there was no pressing need to carry out the change of ownership.
Milwaukee Way connects Pacific Highway East near the Puyallup River bridge with East 11th Street, once the major east-west arterial across the Tideflats.
Milwaukee Way got its name from Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, the Milwaukee Road for short, which had its Tacoma passenger terminal and maintenance center just south of East 11th Street.
That passenger terminal and maintenance facility was demolished after the Milwaukee Road quit serving the Pacific Northwest in 1977.
The Port of Tacoma built its South Intermodal Yard on the former Milwaukee Road site.
Now the port wants to acquire the road right-of-way for further facilities expansion. Mattina said the port will keep the road open for now but will assume maintenance responsibility from the city.
"We wouldn't consider closing the road without a lot more public hearings and public involvement," she said.
The vacation of Milwaukee Way is another step in the port's expansion to include former public streets into the port's massive terminal complexes.
East 11th Street no longer serves its former role as a main arterial across the Tideflats. That role ended when the Blair Bridge, which carried East 11th over the port's Blair Waterway, was razed in 1997. The drawbridge was too narrow to allow the safe passage of large containerships and auto carriers, and replacing it with a wider bridge was deemed too expensive.
Interstate 509 at the south end of the Tacoma Tideflats now serves the role once fulfilled by East 11th Street connecting downtown Tacoma with Northeast Tacoma.