Traffic in Fife and the surrounding areas is awful. There is no sugar coating it. We are receiving daily calls and e-mails asking what Fife is doing to make it better. We wish it were a simple fix, but construction is slow, lack of funding for large projects hampers development and an economic boom compound the complex issues that create the traffic jams in the South Sound. Fife Community Development Director Steve Friddle answers some common questions below:
Why is traffic so bad on Interstate 5?
In addition to growth, there are many construction projects happening, all which will eventually help, but currently add to the traffic congestion while under construction:
WSDOT HOV construction on I-5: I-5 South project will gear up soon while N. Bound is still far from completion.
Frequent lane realignments are all unfamiliar. Shortly after Independence Day, WSDOT is going to split I-5 southbound into through and local lanes just south of the Port of Tacoma Road. We hope that this helps and not hinder backups. Watch a video on the change.
Cell phone usage both distracts drivers and now that nearly everyone has a cell phone, drivers receive suggestions from "Apps" to hop off I-5 and look for alternate routes through Fife.
Slow downs/back-ups: Increasingly, commuters from Seattle to Tacoma get off in Federal Way and cut down through Norpoint Way to Marine View Drive. Others cut through 70th to 12th, etc.
Summer construction at the Port required closing portions of 12th Street East and businesses along 54th Avenue East will be impacted by nighttime construction.
The net result is that our local streets get as congested as I-5. WSDOT will eventually finish their projects, but in the meantime, they'll continue to make changes that will chase traffic onto Fife streets.
Why don't we just build what we need?
Federal, state and regional funding lags or is insufficient to commence/complete large Interstate and alternative transportation projects. Fife is working with our regional partners on three additional large projects which are in the hopper:
Port of Tacoma I-5 Interchange: Fife is lead and will soon bid and start construction on a two-phase Port of Tacoma Interchange reconfiguration that will make the flow off I-5 and to the Port much easier.
SR-167: The State is lead on SR-167 Gateway expansion, which was envisioned in the early 1960's, received approved funding in 2015 and construction is projected to be completed in 2031 (that totals nearly 70-years).
Light Rail: Sound Transit is lead on extending Light Rail (approximately $2B) from Federal Way through Fife to Tacoma Dome. The completion sometime between 2026-2033 will assist commuters and the Fife Station will provide a cornerstone for the new city center.
What additional local projects are we working on that will help?
Because of Fife's unique location inside the Puyallup Tribe's Reservation, next to an international Port and intersected by an interstate freeway, any local project requires a huge inter-agency coordination component to make the following projects happen:
Relocate existing I-5 ramps at 54th to the east and to the west creating capacity, removing conflicting 54th Avenue traffic movements and provide easier turning movements.
Construction of a new 2nd Street East (intersection at Taylor Way) including the extension of 2nd Street East to 55th Avenue East. This new intersection and street would provide another option for residential traffic entering the 54th/Taylor Way arterial.
There are several additional safety and capacity projects that we are working on locally (example: additional turn lanes, sidewalks along Pacific Highway among many others).
What does this all mean?
Again, we are very fortunate to live in a vibrant growing community and share the goal and expectation that we are always improving. This includes a long list of recent success stories delivering transportation projects by the State, Tacoma, Port and Fife that have lessened congestion and should be celebrated. However, from this planners perspective, these success stories lag well behind growth and are quickly forgotten as congestion worsens and solutions continue to get more difficult and costly.
I remain confident that the continued, concerted effort and creativity of our leaders, residents, business and all the regional partners will result in solutions. In the interim, continue to direct questions and ideas to me since I am one of several persons responsible for finding the solution to make the city function better again.