A group of Tillicum residents will ask a hearing examiner Friday to overturn the permit the city of Lakewood issued to allow the state to open the main gate serving Camp Murray in their neighborhood.
The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in the council chambers of City Hall, 6000 Main St. SW. Residents can watch the proceedings but no public testimony will be allowed.
The Tillicum Action Committee appealed the right-of-way permit the city issued on Oct. 10 so the Washington Military Department can connect the new gate at the intersection of Portland Avenue and Boundary Street to public streets.
Their case turns on three arguments. They contend the city’s and state’s reviews failed to consider the safety of the residents in the neighborhood and traffic safety on Portland Avenue and North Thorne Lane. They also fault the agencies for not adequately considering that motorists waiting to get into Camp Murray during periods of high security could block access to and from the Eagle Point gated neighborhood.
Ross Tilghman, a Seattle transportation consultant hired by the group, concluded that the state’s estimate of how much traffic the new gate will generate on Portland is low. He estimated between 3,700 and 3,800 vehicles would use Portland each day compared to the state’s estimate of 2,600. A projected 1,600 vehicles drive the route each day now
He also wrote the reviews fell short in estimating how far vehicles would back up onto Portland if security is tightened and what residents of Eagle Point would do to reach or leave their homes in those events.
Tilghman said the traffic increase endangers children walking to nearby Tillicum Elementary School, especially during periods of darkness or low levels of light.
“Adding substantial volumes of traffic not related to the neighborhood or school during those hours poses additional risks to those children,” he wrote.
City Attorney Heidi Wachter countered in a written brief that school data shows just 37 of its 332 students walk to school and the corridor is well-lit with 30 streetlights on Portland between Boundary and Thorne.
She continued that the city is aware of just one “high security” event in the last decade — the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Wachter said a planned roundabout and two other available gates would prevent long lines of motorists from blocking residents’ access.
Wachter acknowledged more vehicles will use Portland once the new gate opens. But she argued the maximum daily traffic allowed on the street is far more than even the appellent’s estimates of use. Portland from Berkeley Street and extending onto North Thorne Lane is classified a “collector arterial” and can carry up to 8,000 vehicles a day.
“Taken a [sic] face value, because the projected changes in traffic usage – under the numbers proffered by any party – do not exceed the ADT (average daily traffic) for the affected roads, a valid argument could be made that no mitigation would have been required under any set of circumstances.”
Instead, the state has agreed to spend millions of dollars on traffic improvements to meet conditions of the city’s permit. The conditions are intended to dissuade motorists headed to the gate from using local streets and slowing down those who do. Projects include constructing raised crosswalks on Portland and installing signs to designate Berkeley and other streets away from the neighborhood as the designated route for Camp Murray traffic.
Officials at the military department have said the gate’s current location near Berkeley Street and Union Avenue is unsafe because the busy intersection, an antiquated Interstate 5 interchange and a rail line that may see more traffic are too close.
The group did not appeal the permits issued by Pierce County to build the gate, which is now under construction.
The hearing was scheduled for Dec. 7 but was postponed as both sides narrowed the issues that would be argued during the hearing.
The group has vowed to exhaust their appeals. The next stop would be Pierce County Superior Court if the hearings examiner, James O’Connor, finds in favor of the city. He has 10 days from the hearing date to issue his decision unless he seeks an extension.
I will be live-tweeting the hearing for those who are interested @TNTchill.