Wauna traffic light project slowly progresses


Irene Torres, KP News

Planning continues behind the scenes for development in the Lake Kathryn Village Shopping Center. Movement seems slow, as so many agencies are involved.

Dale Severson, who heads the Washington State Department of Transportation Olympic Region Development Services, told the KP News, “We have been working with the proponent of the Lake Kathryn Village Shopping Center, a Mr. Joe Rhea, since about 2000 and more recently we were contacted by his design consultant, Bob Jewell, of PacLand here in Olympia.”

Severson explained, “The Lake Kathryn Village Shopping Center was originally SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) conditioned back in the 1980s. I believe it was to install a traffic signal at their center’s private road entrance (92nd Avenue) when they reached a certain square footage. That total was basically a level that would be reached if they installed a grocery store.”

At that time, rumors swelled about some major grocery outlet, such as Safeway, moving onto the Key Peninsula. Around 2000, it looked like that threshold was about to be met, and the developer hired a design consultant to prepare “channelization and traffic signal plans for that signal at 92nd,” Severson said.

“We then took a close look at that requirement and decided all parties (developer, WSDOT, and traveling public) would be better served if that traffic signal could instead be installed at the existing public road T-intersection at 94th Avenue NW by having them make a new south leg to serve the center and adjacent vacant lot to the west of the center (Please click here for a .pdf file of the Plan of Approval.) (74 KB)

Property manager Joe Rhea spoke to the KP News on behalf of Don Zimmerman, majority owner of the Lake Kathryn property. “We acquired more property to develop — now about 40 acres — and later discovered that 7 acres of it were designated as wetlands. We can’t develop wetlands,” Rhea said.

The developer designs, engineers, and builds the project, usually paying the entire cost, with the exception in this case of a $55,000 contribution in “goods and services” by the WSDOT toward the project. The state must approve all design plans and oversees the construction, which is constructed by the developer’s contractor.

“WSDOT will 100 percent own and operate the completed signal that is on WSDOT right-of-way after completion and acceptance of the project,” Severson said.

A new traffic signal may be needed “if an engineering study shows that traffic signal warrants are met and it is the right thing to do.”  Signal warrants are usually based on the amount of traffic volumes at an intersection, but can also include pedestrian and accident warrants.

Severson said, “If this was to be a 100 percent WSDOT funded signal, it would have to prioritize high enough to be one of the two or three signals this region typically funds and builds within a typical biennium. In this case, the intersection does meet signal warrants, but does not prioritize very high.”

With the concurrence of the property owner, the state is “nearly finished reviewing the traffic signal engineering plans.”

“It normally only takes a year or less to work through our WSDOT design review process, but because the schedule is developer-driven, it is only now nearing completion of the design phase,” he said.

PacLand representatives declined to contribute to this story. Rhea said, “We want to make it grow. We have done a lot of work, developing statistics and doing the engineering, but we are stifled. We have been working with (Rep.) Derek Kilmer, who is on the state Transportation Committee, and with (Pierce County Councilman) Terry Lee to get the state to contribute funds that will go a long way toward the safety of Highway 302. As the (second Tacoma Narrows) Bridge is completed, people are expecting a lot of growth, all the way to Poulsbo. Safety along 302 is a big issue.”

Kilmer told the KP News, “I support the idea of a traffic light there. Currently it’s not in the budget, but it’s something I’ve been working for. There is a grant program for these sorts of intersections, and I’ve been working with the county to try to get them to apply for a grant (it’s a bit of a peculiar intersection because it’s a county road coming up to a state highway).”

Rhea said that any increase in businesses would require the installation of a traffic light, “which will hinge on being able to borrow half a million to a million or more dollars for a light and roadway changes.”

While Rhea, Zimmerman and their engineering consultant are reluctant to disclose their negotiations, they reportedly may happen during next construction season in 2007. Progress — when the signal and associated channelization are to be built — is controlled by the developers and their ability to raise the funds needed to complete the project.