Special Reports

DOT promises to heed concerns over office park

The State Department of Transportation and the contractor building the new Tacoma Narrows bridge are rethinking plans for a new office park after protests by neighbors and local politicians.

Residents who live near the Gig Harbor end of the bridge, already dismayed by the magnitude of noise and heavy construction near their homes, were stunned last month to learn that the state planned to cut about seven acres of forest near the bridge in order to put up temporary construction offices for the five years of bridge construction.

The office park is necessary, the DOT says, so it and the contractor, Tacoma Narrows Constructors, can set up their construction offices next to each other and as close as possible to the $849 million bridge project.

Neighbors, who complained that they had not been told of the plan, said taking down the last stand of forest in the area would increase noise, traffic and pollution and lower property values.

The site under discussion is in a roughly triangular area bordered by Highway 16, 24th Street Northwest and 14th Avenue Northwest. Most of the affected homes lie east of 14th on a bluff overlooking the Narrows.

At a neighborhood meeting Tuesday, contrite bridge representatives apologized for not having communicated better with neighbors and promised to go over the plans again, attempting to incorporate public concerns.

"I've got to admit our timing was not great and our interests were rather selfish," said Linea Laird, manager of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge Project for the DOT.

At the same time, neither the DOT nor TNC backed away from their conviction that the office park is necessary. "You don't come out and build an $800 million project and just throw up a couple of trailers," said TNC's project engineer, Scott Steingraber.

The original plan for the office park was to remove all the trees except for a 30-foot buffer strip along 14th. TNC would be housed in 24,000 square feet of modular offices and the DOT in 9,960 square feet next door. A later version showed a 40-foot buffer of trees surrounding the development.

Neighbors said the revised plan still didn't leave enough trees. They also asked that concrete trucks headed for the Tacoma end of the bridge enter Highway 16 via Stone Drive rather than run up and down 14th.

At a suggestion from the audience, Laird agreed to look into the possibility of turning the property into a park after the bridge is completed.

Changes to the plan will be discussed at a meeting scheduled for May 19, Laird said.

Rob Carson 253-597-8693