Pierce County is embarking on a $160 million project that aims to reduce congestion along Canyon Road in East Pierce County.
The Canyon Road Regional Connection Project expands the road from where it ends at Pioneer Way East in Puyallup to 70th Avenue in Fife. The new road will be 1.5 miles long and include three new bridges.
At $160 million, it’s Pierce County’s costliest transportation construction project ever, said Pierce County project manager Letticia Neal.
“It’s a major project,” she said.
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More than 35,000 employees who work in the Canyon Road corridor live elsewhere. Those commuters contribute to traffic congestion.
Currently, Canyon Road stretches more than eight miles from Frederickson to Pioneer Way East, where it dead ends. The annual average daily number of vehicles that travel Canyon Road include:
▪ 30,000 in the Frederickson area
▪ 56,000 near state Route 512
▪ 16,000 to 22,000 near 72 Street East
“The northernmost piece is really the missing link,” Neal said. “Without that, we get all these people finally to Pioneer and then just abandon them there.”
The new segment will include a new bridge over the BNSF railroad, eliminating conflict between traffic and trains. The road then will blend into 52 Street East south of the Chief Leschi Schools campus and cross over a second bridge that will be built over Clarks Creek.
The road then will connect to River Road East, where it will travel over a newly constructed bridge just southeast of Milroy Bridge, which carries traffic over the Puyallup River. Milroy Bridge, which is known for its traffic backups, will be removed.
“Anytime you mention replacing the Milroy Bridge, people get really excited,” Neal said. “Everybody knows how bad traffic is around that area to begin with but also just how limiting the bridge itself is.”
The intersection of Milroy Bridge, River Road, 48th Street East and 66th Avenue East has been a headache for county residents for years, said Pierce County Councilman Rick Talbert, who often hears comments about its congestion.
“It’s a mess,” Talbert said.
The new bridge over the Puyallup River will be expanded to four lanes, complete with lighting, pedestrian accessibility and turn lanes.
The county is currently in the process of purchasing land for the project. Talbert said there’s some concern among residents who will have to move from their homes as the county purchases their property, but that the county is working hard to make sure they’re fully compensated.
The project is expected to spur economic opportunity throughout the region by providing freight trucks traveling north a faster, more direct route to distribution warehouses.
“The freight traffic will be able to travel from Frederickson down to the port (of Tacoma) directly,” Talbert said.
Jeff Hohman, president of Northwest Door in Frederickson, said any work done to improve Canyon Road would be helpful for his employees. The company, which manufactures residential and commercial garage doors, is located right on Canyon Road.
While most of the site’s 250 employees live locally, some travel longer distances.
“It’ll make (commutes) easier for those staff who live in Fife and above,” Hohman said.
The project also would make it easier for Northwest Door staff to access to the Port of Tacoma, when the company ships products overseas. The current roads are “not a convenient route at all,” Hohman said.
“We welcome (the project),” Hohman said. “It will really help with that congestion.”
If all goes as planned, construction will start in 2025 and take three years to complete.
Pierce County also will invest $1.5 million in environmental mitigation, re-establishing 5.86 acres of functional wetland, enhancing 10.56 acres of degraded wetland and preserving 6.59 acres of intact wetland. Protected wetlands are expected to improve salmon populations, adding vegetation and protection from invasive plants along Clarks Creek.
An online open house is gathering comments about the project. Comment period closes Nov. 15.
Extending Canyon Road has been in the works for more than 20 years, Neal said. Already, the county has invested $138 million in improvements along the Canyon Road corridor.
The project has been delayed in the past as other projects took priority. Now, Neal said, the project is really moving forward. Two design consultants are under contract, with $10 million already dedicated from Pierce County for construction of the project.
“We’re at that stage where we’re out there actually buying property,” Neal said. “That’s not a point that’s easy to turn back from.”
Still, a great deal of funding is needed. While not yet complete, the county is putting together a financial package that includes potential sources of funding, from legislative appropriations and grants to possibly a bond.