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Pierce County chooses route off south Plateau

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

Pierce County planning officials have settled on a plan for an east-west highway off the southern Plateau, but there are roadblocks ahead.

Pierce County Public Works and Utilities staff and other county representatives presented the Rhodes Lake Road Corridor study during a public meeting Thursday at McAlder Elementary School.

Jesse Hamashima, transportation planning supervisor, said Alternate D was the chosen by the “project leadership team” after numerous routes were considered.

Alternate D calls for a four-lane highway coming off the Plateau from Rhodes Lake Road at Falling Water Boulevard and connecting to state Route 162 at 128th Street East.

“Alternate D has the least impact on the environment and provides best mobility,” Hamashima said.

However, he pointed out if the state Department of Transportation does not come up with a plan to expand SR 162, any route off the Plateau will do little to relieve traffic problems.

“What happens on both (state Route) 161 and (SR) 162 is very interconnected,” Hamashima said. “As growth increases both in South Hill and with Cascadia and the other developments (on the south Plateau), demand increases. But there is no financing at this time to widen 162. That is the greatest concern at this time. If 162 remains two lanes that is a problem and it's not on the state's list (for improvements).

The Alternate D route would directly serve traffic coming from south Plateau developments like Cascadia, Falling Water and Plateau 465.

Alternate D is also the road members of the Plateau Transportation Partnership, which includes the Cascadia, Falling Water and Plateau 465, said they would pay for and build.

Patrick Healy, owners' representative for Falling Water, told the Bonney Lake City Council April 17 during a workshop the group could begin construction of the road as soon as it is approved by the county. He pointed out to the council Route 3 or Alternate D was the only road they could realistically build.

Maxine Herbert, a member of the Alderton-McMillin Community Planning Board and one of the original founders of the Puyallup Valley Preservation Group, said the board supports the south Plateau connection rather than Alternate D.

“The county has time and time again said they want to retain the agricultural community in the valley,” Herbert said. “Then they say they want to build this four- or five-lane highway with 3,000 to 4,000 cars coming off the Plateau. How will people in the valley get on and off (SR) 162? It's a safety issue, an issue of cultural ambiance and protecting the view shed.”

Herbert said the south Plateau connection her group prefers would connect to SR 162 near Orting, passing by the city's wastewater treatment plant and hooking up to the road network in Cascadia.

The south Plateau network is dependent on traffic moving north-south. The northern improvements would mean widening 214th-218th Avenue East around Lake Tapps connecting to Lake Tapps Parkway.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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