Following countless near misses, fender benders and more serious collisions, the Pierce County Department of Planning and Public Works recently announced its plan to develop a roundabout design to improve safety at the three-way intersection of Key Peninsula Highway, Lackey Road and Jackson Lake Road NW.
While construction won’t begin anytime soon, the county has notified adjacent property owners in the area they will be kept apprised through every stage of design, and to expect surveyors soon for County Road Project No. 5769.
“It’s a very awkward intersection with some challenging angles and safety issues, which is really what brought this intersection to our attention,” said Transportation Improvement Section Manager Letticia Neal in a presentation she made at the May 11 meeting of KP Community Council via Zoom.
From the beginning, Neal said the team saw multiple alternatives to simplify the problem intersection and sought input from the community to help inform a design choice.
County engineers hosted an online open house to encourage the public to compare the features, costs and merits of five alternatives, including doing nothing.
The open house held between March 2 and March 31 generated over 4,400 visitors to the county webpage where they were asked to complete a brief survey. A total of 327 people completed the survey that Neal said generated some interesting data.
The most popular alternative and the least favored choice were both roundabouts.
“Roundabouts tend to be a polarizing option,” she said. “People either love them or hate them before they’re built.”
Fifty-five percent of survey respondents selected the roundabout solution. Neal said the reasoning behind their choice included comments like “easy to implement,” “safest overall,” and “the most efficient alternative.” Several people noted that while they weren’t typically fans of roundabouts, they thought it a good use for this particular intersection.
“Everyone thought there was a problem there and it needs to be fixed,” Neal said. “There were comments about safety, confusion and strange angles. The overwhelming response was, ‘Doing nothing just isn’t a good solution. Something needs to be done at this intersection.’ ”
“It’s a validation that the community recognizes what we in the engineering field are seeing as a problem,” she said. “Very good comments to hear.”
The survey asked respondents the most important factor in their decision.
“Seventy-six percent of the people cited safety as their biggest factor,” Neal said. “That’s overwhelming to say the least.”
She said a lot of the comments were very revealing and “largely focused on the long-term, not the quick and easy solution but something that would last into the future.”
The design process as well as property acquisition typically takes a couple of years, according to Neal.
“Timing always depends on funding and right now the project is not fully funded,” she said. “We are requesting funding in the next year’s transportation improvement program to continue with the design process.
“It’s possible that construction may be able to be completed in one construction season, but those may not be consecutive time frames because we may have to wait for grant funding for authorization through the Pierce County Council.”
The original project was more ambitious. Beyond reconfiguration of the problematic three-way intersection, the county envisioned a short extension to Jackson Lake Road by several hundred feet of county right of way to meet 186th Avenue NW. That plan would have provided an alternate route for emergency access to the south end of the KP in the event the KP Highway was blocked. The county pared back the scope of the project after it met fierce neighborhood opposition to connecting the two dead end roads.
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