Community Government Transportation

State grants boost Gig Harbor road projects

Posted on December 26th, 2023 By:

State grants will help pay for a traffic signal at Wagner Way and a shared-use path along a stretch of Burnham Drive. They are two of six Gig Harbor road projects expected to break ground in 2024.

The Washington State Transportation Improvement Board awarded $1.1 million of the $1.3 million needed to place the stoplight at Wagner Way and Wollochet Drive and contributed $1.5 million for the $5 million first phase of Burnham Drive half-width roadway improvements.

A fire department vehicle pulls out from Wagner Way.

A fire department vehicle pulls out from Wagner Way, across from the Shell gas station. Photo by Ed Friedrich

TIB is an independent state agency created by the Legislature that distributes street construction and maintenance grants to 320 cities and counties. Funding comes from the state gas tax. It awarded 184 street and multimodal improvement grants to local agencies totaling more than $137 million at its Dec. 1 meeting.

Wagner serves growth, short-cutters

Not that long ago, Wagner Way didn’t exist. It was built in 1999 or 2000, according to the city. It connects to 72nd Street, creating a shortcut between Wollochet and Skansie Avenue. Since it opened, a nature park, multiple professional centers and a retirement home have sprung up, along with housing developments off 72nd.

Wagner now carries a modest 2,000 drivers per day, according to the city, but they and those coming from the Shell gas station across the intersection can have difficulty entering Wollochet. They must look three directions, including east where a corner limits the view, and dart across at an opening. Often the stoplight at the Highway 16 offramp backs up Wollochet traffic past Wagner, blocking them in.

Wagner Way looking across at the Shell gas station. Several accidents have occurred here.

Wagner Way looking across Wollochet Drive at the Shell gas station. Several accidents have occurred here. Photo by Ed Friedrich

Misjudgments and impatience contributed to 37 accidents in the vicinity since 2018, according to police records. The mostly low-speed crashes inflicted 14 injuries. Nobody died.

“We have approximately 2,000 cars attempting to maneuver onto Wollochet each day, with Wollochet being much higher volume (17,000),” said City Administrator Katrina Knutson. “This project will make the intersection much safer for vehicles and pedestrians alike.”

Not just a stoplight

Besides the new traffic signal, the project will improve pedestrian access, add a bike lane and repave the intersection. Also, the trail crossing on Wagner Way for Adam Tallman Park will receive curb ramps, pedestrian lighting and flashing beacons.

The city expects the Wagner-Wollochet intersection improvements to go out to bid in early 2024 with completion in the summer to fall, Knutson said.

Just up the road, projects on each side of the Highway 16-Wollochet interchange earlier received funding from a different state source. The Legislature in April allocated $1.7 million to the city from its transportation budget.

Traffic from the Highway 16 off-ramp pulling onto Wollochet Drive.

Cars use the shoulder to turn right from the Highway 16 off-ramp onto Wollochet Drive.

On the west side, the city will add a right-turn lane to the eastbound Highway 16 off-ramp to Wollochet. Many right-turning drivers now use the paved shoulder to get around traffic turning left at the stoplight. The project budget is $990,000.

On the east end, the city will build another right-turn lane, this one for drivers bound for the westbound on-ramp to Highway 16. It will allow them to bypass cars going straight at the signal to Pioneer Way. The cost is also $990,000. It’s uncertain when construction will begin on either end. Design has been underway for several months.

A footworn path along the east side of Burnham Drive will be replace by a shared-use path.

A footworn path along the east side of Burnham Drive will be replace by a shared-use path. Photo by Ed Friedrich

The turn lanes will enable more traffic to move through each intersection on a green light. For both projects, a wall will have to be built or slope filled to widen the road.

28 projects on 6-year plan

The city’s six-year Transportation Improvement Program shows work beginning on both right-turn lanes in 2024, but those are just estimates of timing, cost and grants it intends to pursue, said Knutson. Cities are required to update their plans every year to ensure they’re consistent with their comprehensive plan so they remain eligible for state and federal transportation funding. In June, Gig Harbor approved a plan for 2024-29 that lists 28 projects, including a few new roundabouts. More precise and updated information can be found on the city’s active capital improvement projects page.

The second TIB grant will help fund the middle section — Phase 1A — of Burnham Drive half-width roadway improvements. The first phase stretches 1,400 feet between the northern Eagles Hall driveway and 96th Street. On the east side where gaps exist, it will add a 10-foot shared-use path with a landscaped strip separating the path and the road, plus stormwater improvements.

A shared-use path along Burnham Drive has been in the city's plans for 10 years.

A shared-use path along Burnham Drive has been in the city’s plans for 10 years. Photo by Ed Friedrich

The work includes a storm culvert replacement under Burnham at 96th Street. The 24-inch concrete culvert, through which a North Creek tributary flows, doesn’t meet fish passage standards. It will be replaced by a bridge.

The city anticipates going out to bid in the spring with construction continuing into 2025, Knutson said.

The $3.3 million Phase 1B, from North Harborview Drive to the Eagles Club, is pegged for 2028 construction, and the $7 million Phase 2, from Harbor Hill Drive to Borgen Boulevard, for 2029.

“This project has been on the city’s capital improvement program for over 10 years and will provide a safe method of travel from Gig Harbor North toward downtown for walkers and cyclists,” Knutson said.

More half-street improvements

Two other projects are on tap for 2024.

Half-street improvements will be made to Peacock Hill Road from about 105th Street Court to Ringold Street. The $2.7 million project will add sidewalks on the west side to bridge a gap and include lighting and other pedestrian, bicycle and roadway improvements.

Half-width frontage improvements also will be made on Prentice Avenue and Fennimore Street between Harbor Ridge Middle School and Peacock Hill Avenue. Improvements will include new sidewalks, pedestrian ramps, roadway realignment, lighting, storm drainage, retaining walls and flashing beacon crossings. Costs are estimated at $3.2 million.