The Washington State Department of Transportation’s state Route 162 improvement public survey is complete, and residents and local businesses that rely on the highway are invited to check out the results.
The purpose of the survey was to ask people what ideas they had to ease traffic congestion on the highway between the area where SR 162 meets SR 410 outside Sumner down to the northern limits of Orting.
The survey asked stakeholders to consider what physical improvements to the road could be made, like adding lanes, installing roundabouts or left turn lanes and traffic lights improvements.
Also considered were non-motorized transportation options along the highway – fancy phrasing for better bike lanes – and whether bringing in Pierce County Transit or Sound Transit service to the area would be useful.
WHAT PEOPLE WANT
WSDOT spokesman Doug Adamson said the department had a great turnout in the number of responses and comments given.
Using social media, snail mail and email, the department collected approximately 2,200 responses to the survey of 24 questions, Adamson said.
One of the questions was whether people would use public transportation if it was available. Approximately 40 percent of survey takers said they would utilize transit.
The survey also allowed people to submit their own comments and suggestions.
According to Regional Planning Manager Dennis Engel, 60 percent of the comments the department received concerned widening the highway in some fashion.
The next most popular topic was traffic signals along the corridor. Roughly 15 percent of responses wanted less traffic lights, while another 18 percent said they want more traffic lights.
A further 9 percent of comments asked for left turn lanes, and another five percent asked for alternate routes to Sumner, Puyallup and Bonney Lake, in the event of a lahar or other emergency, Engel said.
With the public survey completed, WSDOT is now focusing once again on stakeholder engagement before focusing on writing a final report.
“We have a lot more work to do and where we go with all of this information,” Adamson said.
Engel said that right now, WSDOT is focusing on only the planning of improvements, and design will come later.
“There is no funding identified for any of these changes,” Engel said. “This is just the first step of many.”
Now that WSDOT has information from the survey, the department can start focusing on “practical solutions.”
“Our process identifies what is realistic to deliver on, based on what our data is telling us and the world we live in,” Engel said.
For example, even though a large plurality of survey responders said they wanted the highway to be widened, Engel said that probably isn’t a practical solution due to the enormous cost that would incur.
Instead, Engel said the department wants to focus on multiple low-cost projects to help ease congestion.
“A perfect example is buses,” he said. “If you get your buses running between Orting and Sumner, that gets a lot of cars off the road.”
People who want to learn more about the public survey and its results can attend the two open houses the department is hosting next week.
“It’s a good opportunity to meet face to face with experts and ask them questions,” Adamson said.
The first is 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at Sumner City Hall.
The second is at the same time on Wednesday, Nov. 16 the Orting Multi-Purpose Center.
Study Lead T.J. Nedrow said that there will be stations set up that will help tell the story of the survey, show off traffic models and “help people understand the ideas brought forward.”
There is no formal presentation being given at these two-hour events, and visitors can come and go at their convenience.
After the open houses, Nedrow said, the department will finish it’s external work and focus on writing up the final report, which is expected to be published in spring 2017.