Buckley taking first steps to address traffic congestion

Every local knows that rush hour traffic between Enumclaw and Buckley, to use a technical term, sucks.

But Buckley officials are taking first steps to reduce congestion on its side of the White River bridge, with the goal of mitigating the morning and evening slog between the two cities.

City Administrator Courtney Brunell presented to the Buckley City Council a plan to fund a highway realignment predesign during the Jan. 24 meeting.

“Buckley has made this issue a priority and is willing to take the lead to get the project started,” she said in an email interview.

The predesign will be based off a 2019 Washington State Department of Transportation congestion study of the area, which suggested, among several short- and long-term strategies for easing traffic, replacing several intersections with roundabouts.

The highway intersections affected would be Park Avenue, Main Street, Mundy Loss Road, Hinkleman Extension, and State Route 165.

But that’s not all — other improvements to SR 410 would include adding a right hand turn lane north of Park Avenue, extending the left turn pocket at the SR 410/SR 165 intersection, widening SR 410 to four lanes from Mundy Loss Road to the White River, and installing new bridges over the river and the nearby flume.

A project this daunting could take up to a decade to complete, Brunell told the council, and it all starts with the city updating its Transportation Improvement Plan this July.

Once that is complete, the city is eligible for a federal Safe Streets For All grant; the plan is to ask for $220,000, the estimated cost of the predesign.

While waiting to hear back about being awarded the grant, Buckley will begin talks with WSDOT and team up with Enumclaw and other local municipalities, plus King and Pierce County, to lobby the state and other entities (the Puget Sound Regional Council, the Transportation Improvement Board, etc.) for design and construction funds.

Grantees are announced early 2024, and Buckley aims to have the predesign completed that year.

If all goes well, and with the predesign in hand, the city can then lobby for more funds in earnest — construction alone is estimated to cost upward of $60 million.

It could be difficult to obtain those funds; former Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson recently said that SR 410 is low on the state’s priority list in part because it’s not a highway that’s open all year or is used by freight.

But if the city can form strong partnerships, Brunell hopes to be able to show the state legislature that the highway realignment is an important project.

“We have met with leaders in Bonney Lake and Enumclaw and hope to leverage partnerships with all cities on the foothills and our respective counties to demonstrate that this is a regional issue,” she said.


One of the reasons Buckley wants to get going on this project now is because — surprise, surprise — traffic is expected to get worse in the next few decades.

According to the 2019 WSDOT study, nearly 1,500 drivers drove over the White River bridge during the morning peak hours (7 to 9 a.m) and more than 2,000 in the afternoon peak hours (3:30 to 5:30 p.m.).

By 2030, the morning peaks could see about 1,750 drivers traverse the bridge, and close to 2,300 in the afternoon.

A decade later, estimates for the morning peak grow to almost 2,000, and nearly 2,500 in the afternoon.

All this new traffic would majorly affect travel times between Garrett St. in Enumclaw and 234th Ave. in Buckley. According to WSDOT, westbound evening peak hour travel on May 22, 2018 (when the agency gathered data for peak hours) took 23 minutes.

By 2025, WSDOT expects that to increase to 33 minutes, and just five years later, 41 minutes.

By 2040, it could take nearly 56 minutes to drive that eight mile stretch.


When Enumclaw installed a roundabout near the local high school, not everyone was happy.

“Yay, progress,” Barb Shupe commented on Facebook about an article on the project. “I’ll be avoiding this intersection, permanently.”

“Roundabouts are a fricken joke. The one coming down peasley Canyon is a pain in the a**,” Joel Castanza wrote. “There are others around that people haven’t a clue how to merge or exit them.”

But many studies show roundabouts both improve traffic and decrease the risks of collisions, especially fatal ones.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, stop signs replaced with roundabouts reduced delays by up to 23%, and converted intersections saw delays reduced by up to 89%.

Additionally, stop signs and intersections replaced with roundabouts saw up to an 80% reduction in vehicle crashes that caused injury, and WSDOT cited studies that showed fatal collisions decreased by 90%. This is because roundabouts encourage low travel speeds and remove the temptation to “beat the light”, and one way, curved roads eliminate the possibility of t-bone or head-on collisions.

According to WSDOT, there were a total of 421 collisions between 234th Ave. to Garrett Street between 2013 and 2017, with the most (192) happening between Mundy Loss Road and the White River bridge. There was only four suspected serious injuries recorded, and one fatality.


The 2019 WSDOT study also has suggestions for how Enumclaw can improve traffic on SR 410.

Recommended strategies include installing a roundabout at the 244th Avenue, Semanski Street, and 252nd Avenue intersections and closing highway access at 241st Avenue, which many drivers try to use to get ahead of bad traffic.

At this time, Enumclaw is not pursuing these recommendations, Mayor Jan Molinaro said.