O’Ban: Senate transportation budget to offer Pierce County traffic improvements, train noise reduction

The state Senate Friday passed its supplemental transportation budget, providing additional funding for local projects.

The budget includes an amendment offered by Sen. Steve O’Ban that would direct the Department of Transportation to come up with a strategy to address the vulnerabilities to the South Sound when there is a catastrophic incident, such as last December’s closure of I-5 caused by the fatal Amtrak train derailment.

As a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, O’Ban, R-University Place, moved for the inclusion of language to address solutions to Pierce County traffic congestion and emergency management concerns regarding routes away from natural disasters and incidents similar to the Amtrak derailment. The amendment also looks at what transportation investments would benefit the economic development of the area.

“This analysis comes at a critical time,” said O’Ban. “We need to find ways to relieve traffic, create routes to escape disasters and benefit our local economy.”

The supplemental budget also provides $400,000 for rail noise mitigation and to enhance safety south of the rail crossings at 19th Street and 6th Avenue in Tacoma.  Instead of trains blowing horns in an unfocused manner before and after the intersection, horns will be mounted at the road/rail crossings and focus their warnings directly at pedestrians and motorists. The city of Tacoma is analyzing safety and noise mitigation and this funding will complement that effort.

“This funding will improve safety and reduce train noise in populated areas of our community,” said O’Ban.