Puyallup: News

Have ideas for reducing heavy traffic near South Hill Mall? WSDOT wants to hear them

WSDOT has identified potential improvements to reduce congestion at the 31st Avenue Southwest overpass at state Route 512 in Puyallup. Officials are planning to eventually widen the street.
WSDOT has identified potential improvements to reduce congestion at the 31st Avenue Southwest overpass at state Route 512 in Puyallup. Officials are planning to eventually widen the street. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is embarking on a study to identify strategies that could alleviate heavy traffic at the state Route 161 and 31st Ave. SW Overcrossing near state Route 512.

Recognizing that traffic volumes exceed capacity, leading to backups and delays, WSDOT is seeking comments and ideas from the public to improve the area.

One concern was the inability for emergency vehicles to clear the overpass during peak traffic times, WSDOT planning manager Dennis Engel said.

“There are some concerns that there are only two lanes,” Engel said. “It can get congested at times.”

There are some concerns that there are only two lanes. It can get congested at times.

Dennis Engel, WSDOT planning manager

WSDOT officials met with representatives of the South Hill Mall, the city of Puyallup, Pierce Transit and Pierce County to come up with some options for improvement.

One of those options is to add a second lane going westbound on the west side of the overpass. Another option is to add roundabouts at each end of the bridge near the off ramps of SR 512, and a roundabout at South Meridian. A third option would widen the bridge entirely, possibly adding bike lanes and sidewalks.

Some pricier options consider a loop ramp or a flyover ramp to alleviate traffic on and off of SR 512.

Funding for the study is provided by the Washington State Motor Vehicle Account. For now, there is no official price tag for each option. The main focus is to brainstorm ideas, Engel said.

As a fairly large stakeholder, the city of Puyallup will be involved with the project moving forward. Assistant City Engineer Hans Hunger said the city is aware of the impacted commuters in the area and monitors traffic with counts and reports.

“We’re just really interested to see what they’re proposing and see if it will help,” said Bryan Roberts, traffic engineering technician for the city of Puyallup. “People will be driving on this every day.”

We’re just really interested to see what they’re proposing and see if it will help...People will be driving on this every day.

Bryan Roberts, traffic engineering technician for the city of Puyallup

WSDOT shared information about the study at the Puyallup Farmer’s Market on Oct. 14 and received a lot of positive comments, Engel said.

On Monday, WSDOT opened a survey as part of an open house, asking the public for input. The survey can be found on WSDOT’s website at bit.ly/sr161overpass and is open through Nov. 6.

The input of commuters who experience this traffic daily is especially important.

“Sometimes the public sees things we don’t,” Engel said.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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