Wauna curves get funding for rebuild


Sarah Kehoe, Special to the KP News

The state Senate set aside $8 million for improvements to the Wauna curves along SR 302. No exact date had been set for construction; however, it is expected to occur in the next couple of years. Photo by Marsha Hart

Gig Harbor resident Sven Lovstrom sighed with relief when he heard that the State senate is set to restore project funding for interim improvements in Purdy and the Wauna curves.

Lovstrom is weary of the frequent accidents that affect his customers.

“I know that at least three of my customers have been hit there,” said Lovstrom, owner of Hollywood Pet Grooming and Boarding Facility. “I’ve landed into the ditch a couple times myself.”

The Senate set aside $8 million in its 2009-11 and 2011-13 transportation budgets during a meeting on March 30 for the rebuilding of roads along the high-accident corridor.

“The roads along the Wauna curves have been a disaster for years and we keep hearing the roads are going to be rebuilt,” he said. “We’ve all been wondering when it will actually happen.”

Funding for this project has been cut in the governor’s budget proposal for many years. The delay in re-building was because of the large amount of funding needed, said Sen. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor.

“The reason these improvements have been so long in coming is because these are critical improvements,” he said. “I’ve made it a high priority to see improvements made to State Route 302 and I’m pleased we are going to see some progress.”

Many accidents have occurred over the years on the dark, winding roads, and the route has heavy traffic.

“This corridor meets the threshold for a ‘high accident corridor’ in our most recent compilation of statistics. A high accident corridor has an above average rate of accident occurrence as compared to a statewide analysis of similar highways,” said project manager for WSDOT John Donahue.

“Locations like this are of particular interest to WSDOT - to investigate and understand what the causes for a higher rate of accidents may be, and ultimately to address these causes.”

Lake Kathryn Village sits at the top of the curves, and Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy is one of the businesses there.  Don Zimmerman, owner of the pharmacy, said improvements are needed on the stretch of road.

“There is an overload of traffic and the worst part is on 94th,” Zimmerman said. “I’m in favor of any kind of reconstructing.”

The exact time for short-term improvements of the area are unknown until the budget officially passes at the end of April, but they are set to take place in the 2009-11 biennium, said Kilmer. Improvements include widening the road on 302 near 118th and between Goodnough and the 302 Spur, U turn and signal modification at State Route 302 Spur and 144th and minor widening on roads northbound south of Purdy on State Route 302, according to the WSDOT.

“We will be focusing on trying to make it easier for drivers to enter and exit the highway more safely and making traffic flow smoothly,” said project manager for WSDOT, John Donahue. “We are currently doing a study of this corridor to look at long-term improvements.”

The long-term goal is to build a new corridor on to the Key Peninsula. When this construction occurs, the safety and convenience of businesses around the area will be considered, said Kilmer.

“I want to see a proposal that solves our transportation problems while respecting the needs and interests of the people who live and have businesses in the area that may be impacted by this project,” he said.

Business owners are willing to put up with minor inconveniences during reconstruction.

“I will support anything they do because conditions are so hazardous,” said David Ahrens, owner of Coast to Coast Hardware in Lake Kathryn Village.

Lovstrom agrees. “I am just encouraged to hear that something will be done,” he said. “I hope it will happen soon.”