Harborview roundabout work snarling traffic
Work has begun on construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Harborview Drive and Stinson Avenue in downtown Gig Harbor.
Drivers and pedestrians alike will be affected by the project, which will be done in three phases.
The first phase, which involves relocating underground utilities, is expected to last through October, according to Public Works Director Jeff Langhelm. Phase 2 — the actual roundabout construction — will start in March 2022.
Phase 1 began Aug. 23. According to Langhelm, the first step is relocating a major sewer line that will result in limited access to the sidewalk along Eddon Boat Park and the park itself, which will be closed on and off.
There will also be intermittent closures of Harborview and Stinson to vehicles. During the last two weeks of August, traffic was one way on both streets, with flaggers directing alternating flow. Emergency vehicle access wasn’t restricted.
The week after Labor Day (Sept. 7–10), the entire intersection will be closed around the clock for several days, with no vehicular access allowed through the work zone — including emergency vehicles. There will be clearly marked detours during this time.
Starting Sept. 13, alternating, flagger-controlled traffic flow will resume and continue until the project shuts down for the winter, likely sometime in November.
“This is a weather-dependent project,” Langhelm said, “which is why it’s being done in phases.”
Langhelm acknowledged that there will be “significant impacts to traffic on Harborview Drive.” Well-marked detours will be in place during each phase of the project, he said.
Once the sewer line is relocated, the contractor will relocate stormwater- and fresh-water lines in the area, and one-lane, alternating traffic closures will continue.
“We’re trying to get all the utility work finished before the rains start in November,” Langhelm said.
Then work will be suspended until next spring — probably resuming in March with construction of the Harborview roundabout. Langhelm anticipates that the project will complete in August 2022.
“We’re very much aware of the impacts and inconvenience this will have on drivers and pedestrians,” Langhelm said. “We really appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we work through this important project.”
Original plans called for traffic lights
Until early in 2020, the plan was to install traffic lights at the intersection. In August 2019, the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of a traffic light, even though city staff and Gig Harbor Fire and Medic One recommended the roundabout option, and public comment favored a roundabout. A contract was then approved with Transportation Solutions, Inc. (TSI) to design traffic signals for the three-way intersection.
In January 2020, the Council— with three new members — revisited the issue. Several Council members indicated that they had heard strong opposition from constituents who were opposed to the light and in favor of a roundabout. On Jan. 20, the Council voted, 5-2, to stop work on the design of a traffic light and approved a contract amendment instructing TSI to shift to designing a Harborview roundabout.
“The change occurred because it was all about safety for our citizens, pedestrians and in vehicles,” Council member Jeni Woock said. “During the earlier meeting in 2019, Assistant Chief Eric Waters spoke about the safety of roundabouts over lighted intersections. Citizens spoke at that meeting about wanting safety and a roundabout.”
Cost was also a factor. According to Langhelm, maintenance costs for traffic lights can be significant. The number of view-blocking signal poles required for traffic lights was also an issue, Woock said.
Other road projects
In Gig Harbor North, a pedestrian safety project is nearing completion. The improvements include installation of rectangular rapid-flashing beacons (RRFB) at crosswalks near the roundabouts at Harbor Hill Drive at Costco, Borgen Boulevard and Harbor Hill Drive, and Borgen Boulevard and Olympus Way.
On 38th Avenue between Briarwood Lane and the southerly city limits, the city is working with David R. Evans and Associates to finalize design work to incorporate low-impact development standards (LIDS) for a bike lane, sidewalk, biofiltration swale and pedestrian lighting adjacent to a housing development. The development is being built by Rush Construction under Pierce County land use rules.
“The development is in the county, but the right-of-way is within city limits, so the developer has to follow city rules for the right-of-way portion,” Langhelm said.
The site was originally planned to be a tennis center until Rush purchased the land in 2008, he added.
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