County Update on Road Improvements


Lisa Bryan, KP News

Key Pen Highway intersections (circled) under consideration. Imagery © 2018 Google, map data ©2018 Google

Pierce County engineer Brian Stacy addressed the May 9 Key Peninsula Community Council meeting to provide updates on KP transportation projects underway by the Department of Planning and Public Works.

New Signs for the Times

Stacy began with an update on replacing road signs to comply with required address changes on the KP and neighboring islands to transition to the next generation of 911 calling, involving nearly 1,000 road signs. 

The department sought creative solutions to avoid costly total sign replacement and settled on applying stickers designed to wrap over the end of each sign, replacing KPN and KPS with NW or SW. Confident the stickers demonstrated exceptional durability and visibility, county staff applied the cost-effective treatment to 455 road signs, reducing the estimated $140,000 price tag to just over $20,000. 

“The vast majority of your signs are already done,” Stacy said. The larger signs on overhead signals will be replaced over the summer. “We tried a few different things, but just couldn’t get the same adhesion and reflectivity needed using the same materials,” he said. “Overhead signs will require full replacement.”

Key Peninsula Highway and 134th Avenue NW Intersection

The county completed a traffic study of this sharp-angled intersection in 2017 and came up with several alternatives to improve safety there, Stacy said. Reconfiguring the intersection to 90 degrees would require relocation of at least one building. A roundabout solution would work well from a traffic flow standpoint but would have a big footprint. Preliminary estimates ranged between $2 million to $4 million, more than the county had hoped for realignment. 

“The least expensive option would be to try and skew the intersection the best we can and provide turn lane movements there. That could provide some value but doesn’t fix the alignment problem,” Stacy said. “Staff will continue studying the options.” 

Key Peninsula Highway - Lackey Road - Jackson Lake Road Intersection

“There has been a fair amount of traffic incidents at this site, supported by data, so this year we put money into further analysis to determine the best solution,” Stacy said.

The county acquired a triangular parcel adjacent to the intersection last year. Stacy said he thinks this project will compete for grant funding and that may ramp up the progress. “I think this is a project that is going to find itself going up the list.” 

Alternate Route for Lower KP

Stacy said there is a missing link between Jackson Lake Road NW and 186th NW, presenting a safety issue for residents going to or from the southern end of the KP in the event the KP Highway is blocked near Home. 

“At first I looked at the maps and thought there must be a right of way issue––maybe a lake, a canyon or a floodplain––preventing the road from going through, but that is not the case,” he said. “The idea of connecting the two makes perfect sense. We’re waiting for a legal opinion right now from the prosecutor’s office regarding right of way, which we believe we already have. We’re not looking to build capacity in this area, but this project is about connectivity and safety.

“All the aerial topography and critical areas I looked at––it looks like a no-brainer. If everything checks out this will go on the transportation improvement project list.”