2018 Amtrak train derailment highlights need for road expansion
OLYMPIA…A key project expected to improve traffic through DuPont and Steilacoom was one amendment not included in the Senate transportation budget passed by the Senate Thursday. The amendment adding it to the budget was voted down, but the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee indicated that he remains open to discussion on the plan.
Highlighting the need for this project was the Amtrak train derailment in 2018 and an earlier head-on collision, which necessitated alternative routes when I-5 was shut down.
The project, which would extend 1.5 miles and cost $3.9 million, is designed to accommodate increased traffic and support the future development of the I-5 corridor. It will widen DuPont-Steilacoom Road by adding a new lane in each direction from Wharf Road to Barksdale Avenue.
Currently, DuPont-Steilacoom Road is a three-lane road with two through lanes and a dedicated two-way left turn lane in the center. This is insufficient for continued growth in the area, and for traffic revisions during an emergency.
Adding additional lanes in the project would allow higher volumes of traffic to access both Joint Base Lewis-McChord and reduce congestion in the area. It would also include a new sidewalk, curb and gutter where none exist, connecting a local residential neighborhood to retail area along the road.
“When the accidents happen along I-5 through Steilacoom and DuPont, and I-5 is closed, people are pretty much stuck,” explained O’Ban. “When drivers are forced to take alternative routes, the communities along those routes suffer from total gridlock. When the Amtrak train derailed, people were forced through Yelm and the Kitsap Peninsula into six-hour delays. We must alleviate this problem.
“It would be wise to do anything we can do to support area residents and the growth of DuPont and JBLM, considering how much expansion we have seen in the community,” said Sen. O’Ban, R-Pierce County. “Pierce County, and indeed the entire region, depend heavily on the economic development from the base and those residents and businesses located in the area outside it.
“Traffic is not only a real headache for people — it’s very dangerous. This project is a much-needed part of the long-term plan in alleviating that daily hassle and it’s critical to making our roadways safer.”
The expected redevelopment of the former Intel site and another 262 acres of property would result in even heavier use the DuPont-Steilacoom Road. Right now, the value of freight movement through the area affected by the DuPont-Steilacoom Road project is over $3 billion.
The Senate transportation budget will proceed to the House of Representatives for consideration.