Rebuilding the Port of Tacoma’s main artery, Port of Tacoma Road, will be a fairly straightforward task, says the man in charge of the project.
It’s the handling of the traffic feeding the port during the nearly seven months of construction that will be the difficult trick, says Tom Rutherford, the City of Tacoma’s project manager for the road replacement project.
That project, tearing up all of the existing asphalt roadway from East 11th Street to Marshall Avenue and replacing it with concrete, begins in earnest next week. The goal is to have the street redone before the end of the year.
The major artery feeds container traffic to and from most of the port’s major containership terminals. Since the Grand Alliance shipping consortium moved to the Port of Tacoma two years ago from Seattle, the road has taken a beating from trucks carrying goods to those terminals.
The road is now pockmarked with potholes, with cracks and wavy asphalt where it bears the weight of hundreds of trucks on a weekly basis.
The six inches of asphalt is not up to the task of handling that much traffic, said Rutherford. It will be replaced with 10 inches of concrete with a far greater life expectancy.
The project also includes installing permanent traffic signals at the entrance to Washington United Terminals at Lincoln Avenue and Port of Tacoma Road.
Gary Merlino Construction Co. has been contracted to perform the $9 million job. The money to finance that new construction is coming from a variety of state, local and federal sources, said Rutherford. Federal money, for instance, paid for the design work. State money is paying for a large share of the construction and funds from the City of Tacoma, Port of Tacoma and Tacoma Rail are picking up the remainder.
The port will continue to function during the construction period with the help of several detour routes and new queuing areas for trucks awaiting entrance to the port’s Husky, Olympic and Washington United terminals.
The city said that for most of the construction period, two lanes of the four-lane Port of Tacoma Road will remain open during business hours on weekdays. The street may close down from time to time at night and on weekends. The arterial is expected to shut down at Lincoln Avenue and the Washington United Terminals gate for six weeks beginning in July.
Truck traffic will be detoured to Milwaukee Way, to Lincoln Avenue and Thorne Road to reach port terminals. Specific detour maps are available to both the port’s and the city’s websites. The city also will provide updated text and email alerts to those who subscribe to those updates on the city’s website.
Much of East 11th Street will be converted to a waiting area for Blair Peninsula terminals during the construction period.
“Our most difficult task during this project will be communication,” said Rutherford.
The Port of Tacoma, whose headquarters is located at the end of the Sitcum Waterway just off East 11th Street, is moving some meetings and customer functions to the Fabulich Center nearer Fife to make access to those gatherings easier.