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With mitigation, Camp Murray plan should go forward

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
July 21, 2011 4:36 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The proposed plan to move the Camp Murray main gate into Lakewood’s Tillicum community isn’t ideal. But it may be as good as it’s going to get, and the alternative – the status quo – is not a good option.

The plan is much better than what camp officials had in mind 10 months ago, when they wanted to move the gate to Tillicum’s Portland Avenue with virtually no mitigation for the community.

The City of Lakewood rightly pulled the plug on the earlier plan by refusing to issue the necessary permits.

Traffic currently enters the camp – headquarters of the Washington National Guard and the state Military Department – at a gate close to Interstate 5, where it gets snarled in the rush-hour nightmare around Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Moving the gate a short distance into Tillicum is expected to relieve much of that pressure and provide better security.

After months of negotiating and studying traffic and engineering data, City Manager Andrew Neiditz and the state Military Department’s director, Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, have agreed on a plan to move the gate that they hope will fly with the City Council and residents.

The new main gate would be where camp officials originally wanted it – at the end of Portland Avenue – but this time there’s plenty of mitigation: $1.2 million in traffic-calming street improvements in Tillicum. Also, some Camp Murray operations would move to Lewis-McChord and truck traffic would use the current gate instead of the new one.

Although some Tillicum residents who fear increased traffic through their community would prefer no change, that’s not much of an option. The traffic is already there – and likely to increase as I-5 gets worse. Drivers are already cutting through Tillicum to avoid freeway traffic. But the new plan – with five raised crosswalks and creation of a school zone along Portland Avenue – should discourage much of that.

Moving the gate could have at least one positive side effect for Tillicum: Businesses might profit from Camp Murray workers going to and from work, and the easier access might encourage more Camp Murray workers to go to lunch at one of Tillicum’s eateries.

Neiditz and Lowenberg insist that if the main gate is moved, they’ll follow up and assess the effects. An audit of the traffic flow is a written component attached to the permit, Neiditz says. He also says the new gate should not interfere with Tillicum redevelopment efforts.

One concern with the original plan was that the Tillicum community had little input. Input also seems to have been scarce this time around – beyond keeping the Tillicum Action Committee posted on developments.

That’s a concern, but not a deal killer. Moving the gate is important for Camp Murray’s security purposes. And at least with this new plan, Tillicum is getting something out of it. Lakewood should let the plan go forward.

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