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Ta-da! Ruston Way reopens, finally

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on June 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
June 29, 2012 10:00 am

Early morning drivers pass through the intersection at Ruston Way and N. 51st Street and N. Baltimore Street Friday, June 29, 2012.

UPDATED:You can forget the circuitous, hilly detour that took you from Tacoma’s Waterfront Ruston Way to Pearl Street for the last year.

Yes, Ruston Way at long last reopened to traffic Friday morning across the former Asarco smelter site now morphed into a growing mixed-use development called Point Ruston.

The gates blocking the long waterfront roadway from crossing onto Point Ruston’s property opened this morning and the construction barriers impeding Baltimore Street’s connection to Point Ruston will fall sometime Friday afternoon.

The newly realigned roadway replaces the century-old Ruston Tunnel with a treelined, bike and pedestrian-oriented boulevard that includes a wide multi-use sidewalk path.

The narrow, angled tunnel passed under the land that supported the ducts that carried emissions from the copper smelter to a tall stack on the crest of the hill. The smelter was closed in the mid-’80s. The stack was demolished a few years later.

The tunnel will be filled with waste materials from the smelter site construction project.

The nearly-mile-long stretch of Ruston Way has been closed for a year while contractors built a new sewer and stormwater collection system and constructed a new road network on the smelter site.

“Point Ruston is excited to open Ruston Way back up. I am proud of my team and congratulate them for accomplishing this monumental task,” said , said Point Ruston development manager Mike Cohen. “This was a true team effort and a great example of how a public-private partnership can work. I can’t wait for the public to see all the great accomplishments that have happened this past year down here at Point Ruston“.

The road and utility improvements were financed by a developer local improvement district. That district raised $28.7 million to pay for the project.

A bond anticipation note was purchased by Bank of America to fund the construction, and the LID obligates Point Ruston to repay the entirety of the bonds over the next 20 years.

Ruston Way is now nearly 16 feet higher than its original elevation, with the new road circling through two landscaped roundabouts and ultimately connecting up the 51st Street slope into the Town of Ruston and Pt. Defiance Park. This project also rebuilt a new Baltimore Street connection from the custom-homes above Point Ruston at Stack Hill.

The new roadway will become the main access to Point Ruston’s residential and commercial district called the Waterwalk at Point Ruston.

Retail tenants for the development include a 175-room Silver Cloud hotel, a 9-screen Century theater and a Marlene’s Market and Deli. Three dozen other retail spaces will also be available for restaurants and shops.

The fully-developed Point Ruston will also include residences for 3,000 people in condominiums, apartments and single-family homes.

Later this year, a public waterfront promenade will connect the existing Ruston Way pedestrian path with the new development and, ultimately, with Point Defiance Park.

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