Question: “I partake in the ever-deteriorating commute from Browns Point via state Route 509 to the Port of Tacoma exit each morning. The backup of freight trucks from Taylor to Alexander drives me nuts.
I love the port, the commerce, the vitality and the jobs. I loathe the trucks on the shoulder and all the complications and danger they present.
Is it legal for freight trucks to drive on the shoulder area of traffic on the right of the fog line and periodically merge back and forth into the lanes of traffic?
I’m afraid some stressed commuter or inexperienced kid screaming toward Stadium High is going to mix it up with one of these trucks one morning and the result will be tragic. — Guy Bernovich, Browns Point
Answer: Shoulder driving usually is not permitted, but the jam-up of trucks entering and leaving the port has lately become so intense, the Washington State Patrol temporarily waived the rules.
“This is an issue we are very aware of,” said Guy Gill, the State Patrol’s public information officer for Pierce and Thurston counties.
“The Washington State Patrol, the Port of Tacoma, the state Department of Transportation and the city of Fife are all working together to find a solution for this,” Gill said. “Our combined goal is to allow safe passage for the trucks to the port, with minimum impact to commuting traffic.”
“In the meantime,” Gill said, “trucks will be using the right shoulder of 509 south of Taylor up to Alexander.”
The increased congestion is mainly due to work slowdowns by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which is in negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association for a new long-term West Coast labor contract.
“I know it’s been frustrating out there for both commuters and truckers,” said Tara Mattina, the port’s communications director. “The ports of LA, Long Beach and Oakland are all experiencing the same issues.”
Long term, the port is trying to come up with a different staging configuration to get trucks off SR 509 quicker, Mattina said.
Shorter-term efforts have included extending “No left turn” hours at the intersection of SR 509 and Alexander.
Since Jan. 6, trucks have been prohibited from turning left from northbound SR 509 onto Alexander Avenue from 5 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.