Transportation Improvements Drive Forward on the KP


Lisa Bryan, KP News


Road crews were a common summer sight on the Key Peninsula, but that was just one of many projects underway or being planned.

Chip Sealing

Pierce County chip-sealed 44-lane miles on the KP in 2017. The $900,000 chip sealing is a cost-effective treatment that typically extends the life of pavement by seven to 10 years, said Brian Stacy, county engineer for Pierce County Planning and Public Works.

The county also completed a 1.6-mile asphalt overlay at 134th Avenue Northwest and the KP Highway at a cost of approximately $250,000. A $50,000 traffic study to improve safety at that intersection, north of the Shell Station near Marnie Farmer’s antique shop, is one of nine transportation improvement projects the county plans for the Key Peninsula.

Shoulder Widening

The installation of sidewalks through Key Center was completed in 2016. Additional sidewalks, fully funded by a state grant, will be designed for Olson Drive KPN and 92nd Street KPN in Key Center. The design process begins in 2018. The country also plans to continue widening the KP Highway shoulder for pedestrian use between Key Center and Volunteer Park to the south.

The Apple Sign Intersection

The county was awarded a state grant to plan an improvement for the intersection of Lackey Road, Jackson Lake Road and the KP Highway. A traffic study is already underway.

“We’ve heard lots of complaints over the years of fender benders and close calls,” Stacy said. “Obviously, the configuration of the intersection is awkward at best.”

One solution could be a reconfiguration of the current alignment to form a 90-degree intersection at Lackey Road and KP Highway. Jackson Lake Road would curve to enter Lackey at 90-degrees, well away from the highway to allow for safe starting and stopping distances. The combined traffic would enter the highway at a single 90-degree intersection.

This plan would require some property acquisition. “We want to minimize impacts to adjacent properties, but intersections that come to 90-degrees function safer and better,” Stacy said.

The second option is a roundabout. The county is communicating with the heirs of Doc Chapman’s 5-acre triangular parcel at the intersection, known locally for its landmark apple sign.

“There are all kinds of opinions on roundabouts, but in this case we’ve got four different legs coming into this intersection at all kinds of weird angles; the very situation where roundabouts work well,” Stacy said.

“The advantage of a roundabout is that it will cause drivers to slow down as they approach the intersection, which would make it a safer place for everyone,” said KP Fire Chief Guy Allen.

Further south on the KP, also on the drawing board is a plan for drainage enhancement on Whiteman Road KPS between mileposts 2.4 and 2.7. The $900,000 project would require rebuilding the roadway.

“The project, designed to alleviate repeated sinkholes in the area, will go out to bid in 2018 with the bulk of construction beginning 2019,” Stacy said. “The planned work is fully funded with county road funds and grant funds called Rural Arterial Preservation.”

A Tale of Two Bridges

The county has also applied for grant funding from the state for two Key Peninsula bridges. Unanticipated environmental constraints quadrupled the cost from the original estimate to replace the existing bridge on Cramer Road KPN near Glencove. Engineers plan to retrofit the existing bridge to extend its life if the grant application fails.

The second application was made to fund replacement of the bridge on North Herron Road, around the bend just beyond the Herron Island ferry landing. There’s no speculation on alternatives to total replacement should that application fail.

Off Key: Improved PHS and Purdy Elementary Access

Baseline construction is scheduled to commence in 2018 on a multimillion-dollar revision to the intersection of 144th Street NW and 62nd Avenue NW in Purdy, along the northern boundary of Peninsula High School.

The reconfiguration is expected to significantly improve traffic safety near the school bus entrance to PHS and main entrance to Purdy Elementary School. In addition to installing a stoplight, the plan includes a new, dedicated right-turn lane on 144th to 62nd for vehicles headed toward the schools and a new right-turn lane on 62nd for vehicles headed uphill on 144th.

“This intersection has been a problem for nearly 20 years, but there was never the money available to address it before now,” Stacy said. “We will be providing westbound left lane turn protection on 144th east of 62nd all the way west to the tennis courts beyond the ball field to keep westbound through traffic flowing. We realized our intersection revision would be partially negated when students attempted unprotected left turns into the parking lot adjacent to the tennis courts. Property acquisition required from neighboring parcels are naturally unlikely to be welcomed, but we have every confidence we’ll work through those challenges.

“The community is going to be very pleased; it will be a tremendous improvement,” he said.

On the Horizon

“Our staff is looking into traffic flow in Vaughn at the intersection of Hall Road and Van Slyke Road KPN near Vaughn Elementary School,” Stacy said. “A second stop sign may be added to calm traffic there.”

The 2018 budget also includes $1 million for fish passage improvements countywide. The county wants to be proactive removing culverts inhibiting salmon from reaching their native streams.

The Pierce County Council anticipates voting on the draft of the 2018-2023 transportation improvement projects budget in November.