About a dozen Tillicum residents sought Monday night the city of Lakewood’s help in stopping the proposed new main gate serving Camp Murray.
The residents told the City Council during its public comment period that moving the gate to the intersection of Portland Avenue and Boundary Street would turn Portland from a quiet neighborhood street into a busy and unsafe thoroughfare.
Several speakers said the project would negate the progress being made to turn Tillicum into a more walkable community. About 40 people attended in a show of support.
“The Tillicum dream is alive and well,” said Dwane Henning, a Tillicum resident of five years. “We don’t want it to become a nightmare.”
Ed Dennery, another resident, called the proposal a “$4 million mistake” and characterized as “flawed and indefensible” the assertion by the Washington State Military Department that the traffic increase would not be significant.
Jim Taylor, vice president of the Tillicum Neighborhood Association, said more than 175 signatures were gathered on a petition opposing the project in two days.
State officials have said the location of the current gate at the intersection of Union Avenue and Berkeley Street is untenable and unsafe due to its proximity to a failed and collision-prone intersection and a congested interchange. They contend the location will become more dangerous if the state moves ahead with a proposal to send Amtrak passenger trains travelling up to 79 mph down the rail line that crosses Berkeley and parallels Camp Murray. That proposal is on hold as the state conducts a study assessing the traffic impacts.
“We’re going to get soldiers killed,” said Col. Duane Coffey, director of construction and facilities management for the Washington National Guard, during a recent interview. “We’re going to get family members killed.”
Camp Murray is the home of the Washington Military Department and Washington National Guard.
Moving the gate north will ease congestion on the Interstate 5 interchange at Berkeley because Camp Murray employees will use the I-5 interchange at North Thorne Lane that connects with Portland Avenue, officials explained. Coffey said many employees already use the route to get to the current gate, and he didn’t foresee a dramatic increase in traffic on Portland.
Coffey had said the department planned to solicit construction bids in September with construction to begin in late October or early November. The new gate would be open by next summer under that timeline.
Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz said Monday that Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg, head of the military department, told him the proposed gate “was not a done deal” and the general understood it’s dependent on the city issuing a right-of-way permit.
“They clearly know what authority the city has,” Neiditz told the council.
The city is awaiting release of an environmental assessment of the proposed gate for 15 days of public review and comment. Neiditz said he was told the release of the document is still a few weeks out.
In a letter to Lowenberg, state Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, wrote that he did not see the “practicality of this new gate location” and that it made more sense to move to new gate to Camp Murray’s secondary access on Fort Lewis. Coffey said that option is problematic because it requires staff and visitors to go through a federal checkpoint.