Gateway

Is traffic near Fred Meyer causing more crashes? Numbers point to no

Cars enter the Fred Meyer-Olympia Town Center Friday. Traffic at the intersection of Olympic and Point Fosdick drive in Gig Harbor continues to be troublesome since the opening of the new Fred Meyer.
Cars enter the Fred Meyer-Olympia Town Center Friday. Traffic at the intersection of Olympic and Point Fosdick drive in Gig Harbor continues to be troublesome since the opening of the new Fred Meyer. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

The new Fred Meyer, which opened on Jan. 10 near Point Fosdick Drive, has driven large crowds to the already busy area. Crowded parking lots, stop-and-go traffic and waiting times to make left turns were already an issue for those driving near Point Fosdick Drive and Olympic Drive, but has the new Kroger installment added onto those issues?

David Reed, manager of First Citizens Bank, says since the new store opened at 5502 Point Fosdick Drive, he has seen accidents regularly and his commute in and out of the office has increased.

“My office is literally facing the corner of the street and I see accidents every single day,” Reed said. “It’s scary.”

Reed said a backup of traffic trying to exit the parking lot near the intersection of Point Fosdick Drive and Olympic Drive has created a cluster of cars, leading to loss of clients for his bank.

“We’ve already had a couple people say they are not coming to this location because of the traffic,” Reed said.

The new store has three avenues that lead in and out of the parking lot, the obvious one near Point Fosdick, and two more that lead out into 32nd Avenue. Reed said either drivers don’t realize there are exits on the other side of the store or somehow the Kroger company didn’t consider how to alleviate traffic around the smaller businesses in the area.

“It’s a two-lane road around that corner,” Reed said. “Cars are trying to turn left and it’s backing up traffic. It’s just poorly designed. If you went to my bank right now, you would be amazed. It’s so hard to get in and out of there.”

Jeffery Temple, the director of corporate affairs for Fred Meyer, said a lot of the traffic and parking issues may be caused by construction in the area next to the new store.

“The biggest issue we have heard about is just the construction still underway,” Temple said. “There is fencing out there. Those are the most significant constraints, but those are temporary. As soon as those are gone, we are hoping to have a much better situation for everyone.”

The temporary fencing and construction is for future commercial developments that is out of Kroger’s hands, Temple said.

“I’m not sure what is set to go in those spaces,” he said.

Temple and Reed said discussion about traffic with other local businesses was not necessary in the planning portion of the new store. The city’s planning department performed routine traffic studies in the area, which was already crowded. Reed said he wishes smaller businesses had a chance to comment on the traffic and parking portion of the construction.

BUT WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY?

So fender benders are a daily occurrence and traffic is keeping people from wanting to visit business near Point Fosdick, but traffic numbers pulled from the Gig Harbor Police Department tell a different story.

Police Chief Kelly Busey said Point Fosdick Drive and Olympic Drive have always been busy, and has one of the highest rate of car crashes in the city. That’s why last fall he went forth with an ordinance that made it illegal for cars to stop and hand money or goods to anyone in a roundabout or the intersection near the new Fred Meyer.

“It’s always been a crowded area,” Busey said. “Especially at lunch time.”

By fall of 2017, 34 percent of crashes in Gig Harbor happened near or on roundabouts or within 500 feet of the Olympic Drive and Point Fosdick intersection, according to Gig Harbor Police Department records.

But reports since the Jan. 10 opening show there has not been a large increase in traffic accidents.

According to police records, there have been eight calls to car crash incidents near the Fred Meyer since Jan. 10. Out of those eight calls, only three were what the police consider “reportable accidents,” meaning a report and crash investigation was made by local officers.

These numbers only represent the number of crashes and incidents where calls to police were made. If more crashes are happening, the police said they are not being notified. Out of the eight calls, only one potentially happened within the Fred Meyer parking lot, which was a hit-and-run.

“Yes, Olympic and Point Fosdick is an intersection where we have seen more collisions,” Busey said. “As a private citizen I went myself and was actually pleasantly surprised. I got in quickly.”

Busey said Fred Meyer didn’t talk specifically with police about traffic issues but they did build improvements to the area to help ease traffic such as repainting traffic lines, retiming traffic signals and they added slip lanes.

Traffic in the area could be a benefit for nearby businesses who are competing for shoppers with Fred Meyer. Chad Roy, co-owner of Harbor Greens Market, said he has heard of the complaints, but has seen an increase of shoppers in his store at 5225 Olympic Drive NW.

“The street that Fred Meyer is facing is kind of a mess,” he said. “But I guarantee it is hurting business. We face on the main drag, Olympic Drive, which is not a mess, so we don’t have a traffic problem. I think that many people will forgo trying to go into that corner.”

Roy said what they are finding is that the traffic may benefit his company.

“People are coming and getting their local produce and meats from us and then going there for things like their trash bags,” Roy said. “We are already seeing more people and we expect to see more.”

Temple said Fred Meyer hasn’t heard any of these complaints prior to his interview with The Peninsula Gateway.

“If there is something we need to know about, I’d love to have it communicated,” he said. “The construction though is not ours.”

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie

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