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New two-way configuration on S. 13th in downtown Tacoma confuses some

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Aug. 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm with 1 Comment »
August 29, 2011 3:59 pm

We received this e-mail from someone who works in the Wells Fargo Plaza who said neighboring property owners received just one day’s notice of the reconfiguration of S. 13th between Pacific Avenue and C. Street. Before, that one-block was one-way.

After some recent street repairs, however, there is one lane heading westbound and two headed east. The westbound lane hugs the side of the street next to the Well Fargo Plaza parking garage.

“In addition to only being a one day notice, this change is going to be very confusing and create potentially dangerous situations with people entering and exiting the garage from Wells Fargo Plaza,” read the e-mail. “Drivers will now need to cross two lanes of traffic before entering the garage or they will need to make a series of right turns around Pacific to A Street.”

The main difference for most drivers will come at the corner of S. 13th and A Street. The right lanes are the same – a curve onto I-705. The left lane stops at a light and  then allows left turns onto northbound A Street. But drivers there must now be aware that drivers can turn left in front of them, from A Street to S. 13th Street.

I was walking around the streets today (see below) and chatted with an area worker who thought that point was the most hazardous. He said he thought if there were no accidents in the next month or two, things will be okay. That is, drivers will get used to it.

Here are some photos that attempt to show the new configuration.

This is from A Street looking westbound toward Pacific Avenue. Note the two-way configuration at the crosswalk
This view is in front of the Columbia Bank Building looking up 13th Street. The Wells Fargo garage in the background
This is the view from Pacific Avenue looking eastbound with the Columbia Bank building in the background
Here's a wider shot of how S. 13th Street meets up with A Street.


And here’s a Chamber of Commerce blog post on some repairs to the south sidewalk and curbing on S. 13th.


I have a call into city traffic engineers to get their comments on why the change was made. I think downtowns are better with two-way streets. One-way couplets (paired one-way streets, one in each direction) encourage traffic to move quickly through an area and detract from the street scape. Tacoma has been moving away from one-way in downtown (with some exceptions such as St. Helens).

Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. I noticed this yesterday and had to wonder why they made the change, and why there appeared to be no signs alerting drivers (and pedestrians) to the change.

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