Ginormous flagpole about to rise at Tacoma Screw in Nalley Valley

Drivers on the Highway 16 spaghetti junction high above Center Street in Tacoma will soon be looking up — yes, up, by another 90 feet or so — to see the largest American flag in the Pacific Northwest.

Workers on Tuesday began assembling the 40,000-pound, 180-foot-high steel pole above the upper parking lot of Tacoma Screw. A dedication ceremony will be held sometime in October, said Mike Howard, the company’s marketing manager.

“We’ve always displayed the American flag,” he said Tuesday. “This is the crowning piece of a 13-year endeavor to continue our commitment to Tacoma.”

Founded in 1946, the company is on the verge of its 70th anniversary, Howard said.

“We’re proud of that. Tacoma is where we want to be,” he said. “The flag will be dedicated to all those who have served our country.”

Among other features, the pole will be topped by a 400-pound ball, or finial, that will contain a pair of high-intensity LED lights to illuminate a 40-by-80-foot Stars and Stripes 24 hours a day. Atop the finial will be a webcam that will broadcast 360-degree views of the highway, neighborhood, city and surrounding area from Puget Sound to Mount Rainier.

Howard said the process from the original idea to this week’s delivery was unlike other projects he’s been attached to.

Tacoma Screw sought approvals not only from the City of Tacoma, he said, but also from the Federal Aviation Administration. Final assembly will take several days, and once the five sections of the pole are joined, inspectors will check the welding before a crane finally hoists the pole into a 23-foot hole — 8 feet in diameter — dug into the hillside.

“As our company has grown to now 16 branches in three states, we have installed flagpoles at all new locations,” Howard said. “The response that we have received from all the communities … has been most positive and appreciative. We felt that a new flagpole and ceremony in Tacoma, our hometown, would be a significant expression of our company’s gratitude.”

Pole manufacturer Steve Symonds, CEO of Symonds Flags & Poles of Fort Worth, Texas, said Tuesday that the ¾-inch-steel pole includes sections with diameters ranging from 18 inches at the top to 42 inches at the bottom. The pole will rest on concrete and be surrounded by a sleeve and packed sand that should protect against earthquakes and weather, with the unit safe to operate in winds of up to 150 knots.