Port of Tacoma

Opening of rain-delayed Port of Tacoma Road coming in January

Workers smooth new concrete Tuesday as it is poured near the northern end of Port of Tacoma Road.
Workers smooth new concrete Tuesday as it is poured near the northern end of Port of Tacoma Road. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Port of Tacoma Road, the port’s main terrestrial artery, will return to full service next month.

The road was rebuilt to handle the increasing volume of trucks serving the port’s busy container terminals.

The reopening of the street will be several weeks later than originally planned, said Tom Rutherford, the city of Tacoma’s project engineer. Port of Tacoma Road connects the port’s main container terminals with Interstate 5 at Fife.

The road’s completion will bring an end to seemingly ever-changing detours for truckers headed to port terminals.

Heavy fall rains have delayed completion of the project, which had been set to finish this month.

“We’re about 90 percent done now,” said Rutherford. “We made good progress this summer, but recently we’ve not been able to work as quickly as we had hoped.”

The only stretches of the roadway still to be rebuilt are a section from Ross Way to East 11th Street and the intersection of East 11th Street and Port of Tacoma Road. Rutherford said the section from Ross Way to East 11th Street should be completed this month. The East 11th Street intersection with Port of Tacoma Road likely won’t be done before mid-January, he said.

The project replaced potholed and deteriorating asphalt with heavier-duty concrete better able to withstand the pummeling from hundreds of semitrailers carrying shipping containers to and from the port’s terminals. The arrival of the Grand Alliance shipping consortium at the port’s Washington United Terminal three years ago accelerated the road’s deterioration.

Since the alliance’s move from the Port of Seattle to the Port of Tacoma, Tacoma’s container volume has risen from some 1.5 annual units to more than 2 million.

Work to remove and rebuild the road’s pavement began in June. Its $10.7 million cost is being paid for with a mix of funds from several government sources including the state, city and port, plus private sources. Gary Merlino Construction Co. handled the job.

The road’s reconstruction progressed without any major difficulties, especially considering the changing construction locations and the volume of truck traffic, said Rutherford.

“We had a few times when trains crossing the roads held up traffic, but we got those worked out,” he said.

Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina said the project proceeded well.

The construction company, the city and the port kept truckers informed of the changing detour routes with emails and other electronic notifications.

The major players had weekly meetings, said Rutherford, to minimize delays.

In addition to the new pavement, the project included new traffic signals at Port of Tacoma Road and the Washington United Terminal gate and at Lincoln Avenue to better control traffic.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663