The daily slog from Enumclaw to Buckley might be safe – accidents are rare when everyone is crawling at 10 miles per hour – but the pace tries the patience of those behind the wheel.
The state Department of Transportation thinks it might be able to help and plans are in the works for a summertime project.
Nothing will alleviate the fact that too many drivers are crowding a two-lane road, coupled with the fact that the White River bridge is the only option for many miles if one is to drive from King into Pierce county.
But a partial solution to the persistent traffic jams could tie into the four signal lights that line SR 410 through the Buckley city limits.
Dave Schmidt, Buckley city administrator, said the DOT intends to modernize the traffic lights at Park Avenue, Main Street and Mundy Loss Road. The result, it is hoped, will make traffic flow more freely.
Presently, the lights are on a constant rotation, alternating through the traditional red-yellow-green pattern no matter the traffic flow. That causes backups, particularly at Park Avenue.
Schmidt said the new lights will be able to detect cross traffic or – more important – if there is no cross traffic. The new system will allow a light to remain green for 410 traffic unless another driver wants to cross the highway.
Contacted late last week, the DOT’s Cara Mitchell said it’s expected work will begin in late June and be completed by the end of October. The total cost of replacing the three traffic lights, she said, is $2.7 million. Part of that cost is for land acquisition; presently, the traffic lights hang from a wire suspended between two wooden poles; the new system will use the design found at the city’s newest light at the 410/164 junction – a single arm extending over the highway.
Mitchell also provided numbers showing why traffic is such an issue between Enumclaw and Buckley. The latest traffic count, from 2016, showed a daily average of 18,000 automobiles passing through the intersection of SR 410 and Mundy Loss Road; the average jumps to 20,000 autos daily at the Main Street and Park Avenue intersections.
The Buckley City Council did its part to cooperate with the DOT during a March 13 meeting. Because the traffic light replacement project will impact motorists,the state agency asked that off-duty Buckley police officers be made available to assist with traffic control.
The council agreed to the request, which anticipates a payment from the state of $2,550. That is based on a rate of $85 per hour for officers working overtime.