Puyallup Herald

‘Dangerous, congested’ interchange on Route 410 is Sumner’s next priority project

‘Dangerous’ interchange at SR 410 causing grief for Sumner, commuters

Facing growth and traffic congestion, the city of Sumner is moving ahead with a project to improve the state Route 410 interchange at 166th Avenue East. The project will include new signals and road widening.
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Facing growth and traffic congestion, the city of Sumner is moving ahead with a project to improve the state Route 410 interchange at 166th Avenue East. The project will include new signals and road widening.

For drivers fed up with traffic along the state Route 410 corridor through Sumner, there’s hope.

City officials went out to bid for construction this month to widen the interchange at Route 410 and Traffic Avenue.

Now, they say it’s time to tackle the next troublesome Route 410 interchange: the one at 166th Avenue.

The interchange in East Sumner gets so backed up with traffic that city officials call it unsafe and a “congested mess.”

The biggest problem is the lack of signals, Sumner Mayor Bill Pugh said.

“(The interchange) doesn’t have a signal at the westbound off ramps — these are the ramps that come down the hill at Bonney Lake,” Pugh said.

Drivers who want to turn left toward the auto dealerships and Winco are “playing chicken” with oncoming traffic, Pugh said.

“It’s frankly a very dangerous move to make during the evening peak hours,” Pugh said.

The city outlined potential solutions for fixing the interchange, which include widening 166th Avenue, adding a signal at the on/off ramps and constructing a new fish culvert.

The city estimates the project would cost $9.5 million. The city dedicated $150,000 to the planning of the Route 410 and 166th Avenue interchange project and is now seeking funds from the state Legislature.

“That would help address access to local businesses, access to the (YMCA), access to the East Sumner neighborhood for reasonable dollar amount,” Pugh said.

More growth, more traffic

Route 410 has been a traffic nightmare for Sumner.

In the last decade, growth has packed city streets with cars traveling on and off the highway, which stretches east to Bonney Lake.

It’s not just Sumner’s issue, but a regional one, Pugh said.

“We have increased housing moving to the south because of affordability issues, but you have jobs which are still north,” Pugh said. “So you end up with that daily movement, and you have a transportation network that can’t meet the demand.”

The result? Lots of traffic — much of it along three Route 410 interchanges: Traffic Avenue, Route 162 and 166th Avenue. All three interchange projects have been on the city’s Legislative Agenda, despite being the responsibility of the state Department of Transportation.

WSDOT spokeswoman Linda Robson said, “There is no project funding for that (166th Avenue) interchange in the 2019-21 WSDOT budget that was recently signed by the governor. However, we’ve been working for some time with the city on ideas for low-cost solutions for that interchange to improve performance, and we will continue to do so and keep the lines of communication open with our partners.”

An average of 43,000 vehicles per day traveled Route 410 at 166th Avenue in 2017, according to WSDOT, while about 5,000 vehicles per day used the exit ramps onto 166th.

“It is sort of out of sight, out of mind road,” Pugh said. “It’s over against the hill. You don’t see the people that are backed up the hill.”

City officials are starting to hear from them, though.

“You are hearing more and more about people that are frustrated trying to turn left coming down from Bonney Lake,” Pugh said. “All of these people are just trying to figure out how to navigate a route to and from their work and home.”

What about Route 162?

Commuters also want to see improvements at the interchange of Routes 162 and 410 in South Sumner.

City officials agreed that the interchange is a problem but said 166th is “far more important” to take on.

For one, it’s more dangerous, they say.

Between 2014 and 2017, there were 55 car wrecks along three intersections at the Route 162 interchange. At 166th, there were 48 along three intersections, according to WSDOT and Sumner data.

The types of crashes differ. At 166th, 42 of the wrecks were “Turn Movement Accidents,” where cars are hit from the side. The majority of Route 162 crashes were “Rear-End Accidents” — 32 of the 55 crashes.

Turning accidents “are more significant type of accidents, in terms of injury versus property damage,” Pugh said.

Drivers also cut through the YMCA parking lot to try to get around the traffic — a safety issue for visitors there, said city spokeswoman Carmen Palmer.

The 166th project also is less expensive, Pugh said, with an estimated cost of $9.5 million compared to $20 million to construct roundabouts at the Route 162 interchange.

“Getting 166th done gives us an alternate route that will be important whenever SR 162 does go under extensive construction,” Palmer added.