Why oh why did Pierce County reduce 72nd Street from 4 lanes to 2 between Waller and Canyon?

Q: Why did the county revise 72nd Street to a two-lane road between Waller and Canyon? It is a major arterial!

A: For the uninitiated, the stretch of road our questioner references is East 72nd Street between Canyon Road East and Waller Road East. It is in the unincorporated area just southeast of the Tacoma city limits in an area some might call Waller.

We won’t call it that, though, because that particular geographic area is a tar pit of corrections for scribes like us. Mistake Waller for Midland or Midland for Summit and prepare to take calls from folks gleeful to set you straight for about a week.

But we digress.

The question was why the county did what it did to 72nd, which was to resurface 1.5 miles of it, reduce the travel lanes from four to two with a middle turn lane and add bike lanes in each direction. The cost was about $193,000, which broke down this way:

Chipsealing (resurfacing), $115,000

Fog sealing, $39,760

Paint striping, markings, buttons, reflectors, signing, $38,200

The work wrapped up in July.

We put the question of why to Anne Radford, who speaks for county public works.

Said Radford:

“This change was made to improve safety. A center turn lane was added along the length of the roadway to provide safer access for those turning left both into and out of the side streets and driveways along the corridor and to reduce rear-end crashes. This change also greatly enhances the visibility of traffic turning onto 72nd Street East.”

Radford went on to tell us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters that the bike lanes provide “an enhancement for non-motorized travel and ties in nicely to the City of Tacoma’s Pipeline Trail (currently under construction) at the intersection with Waller Road.”

But what, Ms. Radford, about the reduction in lanes? Won’t that slow things down on said major arterial?

“While there are fewer through lanes, there is sufficient capacity to handle current traffic volumes,” she said. “The reconfiguration will also help moderate traffic flow and speed on this corridor.”

More information is available at the Active Transportation Projects page on the Pierce County website.

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