For more than a year now, the virgin pavement of 198th Avenue East in the Bonney Lake area has been guarded by traffic barriers and yellow caution tape, keeping motorists at bay.
The new arterial, were it open to traffic, would provide a direct route between South Prairie Road and Washington 410, Bonney Lake’s main road, and the state’s largest new residential development, Tehaleh.
As it is, the 4,200-acre development’s growing cadre of residents and its army of construction workers and their equipment and supply trucks are forced to take lengthy and convoluted routes to reach the new residential and commercial area. The road project has been in the works for 10 years. Initial planning began in 2006 when Cascadia Development Corp. was itself planning construction of the huge planned community on a former logging tract.
The recession derailed those plans, throwing Cascadia into bankruptcy. Activity resumed when Newland Communities bought the development in 2011.
Construction of the new road was one of the infrastructure improvements Newland agreed to do to service the development. In the meantime, delivery trucks sometimes fail to reach their Tehaleh destinations because of the circuitous routes to reach the development, and new visitors often require complicated, turn-by-turn directions or a pilot car to lead them to the subdivision.
“Its always something people talk about at our meetings,” said Sherry Custer, a board member at the Whitman Community Association, a homeowners group in Tehaleh.
“We’ve been waiting a long time,” she said. “Patience is a virtue out here.”
Work on the final segment linking to an existing portion of 198th Avenue East at Rhodes Lake Road East seemed to happen only sporadically for months.
Now the waiting may soon be over. Scott Jones, Newland Communities vice president for the Puget Sound development, told the Bonney Lake City Council last week that the road, given favorable weather to complete work, could be open to traffic in April.
The delays in completing the road, Jones said, were due to the need to relocate utility lines in the road’s path.
Newland, master developer of Tehaleh, is paying for nearly all of the costs of constructing the new link. Pierce County is participating in the land and right of way acquisition for the road.
Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach, who represents the Bonney Lake area, said he’ll be happy to see the road complete.
“Transportation has always been one of my biggest concerns with all of the development happening here,” he said.
Jones said he expects the road will be complete to its intersection with Rhodes Lake Road East in April. That will require completion of a segment of the 198th Street corridor now paved with a layer of asphalt but without curbs, sidewalks and striping. The intersection of Rhodes Lake Road East and 198th will be controlled by a new traffic light.
Beyond Rhodes Lake Road East, the new arterial will merge into the existing 198th Avenue East for several months. Eventually, the new road will be extended southward to 120th Street East along a new alignment that is prepared for paving. Jones expects that segment will be complete this summer.
Another phase of the 198th improvement will widen the arterial to four lanes from the intersection with 120th Street East south to Tehaleh’s first roundabout at Cascadia Boulevard East. Jones said he hopes that project will be complete by 2018.
That project will flatten 198th Avenue East somewhat, raising the lower parts of the road near a Christmas tree farm and lowering the tops of the hills the road climbs. Those hills create a roller-coaster-like profile for the existing road, which can make driving difficult on icy days.
The 198th Avenue East corridor is the only way in and out of Tehaleh now. Plans call for improvement of Rhodes Lake Road between the top of the hill in Bonney Lake to Washington 162 in the Puyallup River Valley north of Orting. Plans for that road improvement are about 30 percent complete.
Newland is hoping that project can be completed by 2020 to allow further building on the Tehaleh site. While that tract is mostly residential now, plans call for retail stores and office developments on the site.
Newland has pledged $500,000 to fund a study of state Route 162 improvement to handle the new traffic. The Legislature last session designated $450,000 for that same study.
Jones told the Bonney Lake council that he’s fielded inquiries from several businesses looking for new retail locations and office sites.
One company was even looking for a 1,000-acre site for a new headquarters. The chances of landing that company, Jones told the council, are small, but Newland is working hard to find an area that will meet the company’s needs, he said.
The developer is also paying $4.1 million to help widen Route 410 at Veterans Memorial Drive to reduce rush hour backups on the state highway.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663