For those living and working in Sumner, rush hour traffic through the town has almost become unbearable.
In an effort to gain awareness of just how bad the traffic has gotten on the state Route 410 interchange with Sumner’s Traffic Avenue and Puyallup’s East Main for those outside of the local community, city officials launched a social media campaign on Jan. 13 called #SumTraffic.
“In the mornings, the backup is all the way up Shaw Road,” said City Engineer Mike Dahlem. “In the evenings, it goes all the way up Puyallup Avenue.”
In his Jan. 13 weekly update, Sumner Mayor Dave Enslow called the traffic challenge a “hidden problem.”
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“We know there is a problem, but those outside the area don’t,” he wrote. “Unlike freeways, the news stations don’t report the daily congestion radiating out from this outdated and undersized interchange. They don’t tell anyone that people coming off South Hill are backed up all the way from Shaw Road. They don’t tell anyone that evening congestion radiates back onto Fryar Avenue and even over the bridge onto Valley Avenue past the Cannery. Or that frustrated commuters who want to get off the freeway are watching their train go by from the backup.”
Since launching the social media campaign to gain awareness to Sumner’s traffic frustrations, Carmen Palmer, the city’s communications director, says most of the feedback from commuters and community members centers on the clear fact it needs to be fixed. Others have suggested light timing, and some have even questioned the city’s decision to bring warehouses into the community.
The city, in cooperation with the Washington State Department of Transportation, has tried altering the timing of lights, which only sent the daily backup up Traffic Avenue or Thompson Street, Palmer said.
“The reality is there’s only so much timing can do,” Palmer added. “At some point, it’s beyond the light timing.”
While Palmer acknowledges the warehouses are contributing to the daily traffic backup, she says it either comes down to getting rid of an estimated 10,000 jobs in the community or find a solution to the traffic woes. With the warehouses being zoned as such since the 1960s, Palmer says it’s the traffic that has to go.
“This interchange is relied on by so many people for so many different uses,” she said.
While the city is using the social media campaign to spread the word of its traffic woes, the next step for city officials is to apply to the Puget Sound Regional Council for funding to complete the project design to widen the Traffic Avenue bridge and reconfigure the interchange.
“WSDOT has done timing studies, counted cars and adjusted the lights,” Dahlem said. “But there’s only so much you can do.”
Dahlem says to avoid the traffic, he suggests taking an alternate route or ferrying your commute time.