Future visitors to the area near Capitol Boulevard and Trosper Rd. will find a neighborhood significantly different from the one that exists today. As part of a strategic plan being executed by the city of Tumwater, this section of Capitol Boulevard will be transformed into an actual boulevard, with a median, narrower traffic lanes to calm speeds, bike lanes, widened sidewalks and roundabouts at key intersections to provide access.
“Tumwater’s plans are going to transform this intersection and corridor,” says Scott Sawyer, a Principal with SCJ Alliance. “It’s an exciting time for the city.”
The intersection improvements are part of a bigger picture that involves creating more of a neighborhood character in that section of Tumwater. “In the long run, the city is looking at creating mixed-use neighborhoods along Capitol Boulevard between M Street and Israel Road,” says Sawyer.
Several years ago, The City of Tumwater hired an urban design firm to do a corridor study along Capitol Boulevard between M Street and Israel Road. The corridor plan identified ways to strengthen the business climate, enhance the aesthetic appeal, improve safety and expand transportation options for all modes of travel. Once the corridor plan was complete, the city hired SCJ Alliance to perform a feasibility review and conduct the preliminary engineering of the transportation options. SCJ was also tasked to look at the Capitol/Trosper intersection issues, which weren’t addressed in the corridor study.
SCJ is in the preliminary engineering phase of creating improvements to that intersection. These include modified freeway on-ramps as well as a series of roundabouts to alleviate traffic and make the neighborhood more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. “In addition to addressing congestion, we’re looking to encourage more walking and biking,” says Sawyer.
The first issue is dealing with the people attempting to get to the freeway. The proposed solution is to realign the ramps so that both terminate on 6th Avenue, a new road connecting Lee to Trosper, away from the main intersection. “In the future, you could be heading north into town, coming up Capitol or Linderson Street, and you wouldn’t have to go all the way to Trosper to get on the freeway,” says Sawyer. “We think having two options to access I-5 will become self-regulating to split traffic about 50-50 between the two access points. Everything starts to work better from there.”
Once traffic has been diverted from the junction of Capitol and Trosper, the next step will be to replace the stoplight there with a roundabout. “We went through a fairly robust analysis to decide on the best way to control the intersection, and the roundabout was the winner,” says Sawyer.
Roundabouts are statistically safer and usually do a better job of keeping traffic flowing. “It’s really hard to argue with data from around the U.S. and the globe. When it comes to safety, signals don’t even come close to roundabouts. And roundabouts perform better than a signal in keeping vehicles moving, especially during off-peak hours,” Sawyer explains. “When it isn’t rush hour, the roundabout is always moving, as opposed to having to randomly wait at a red light.”
Roundabouts will also be added at 6th Avenue and Trosper as well as the section of 6th Avenue where the freeway on- and off-ramps will be located.
Because of the road improvements, some businesses and an apartment complex will be acquired. Sawyer believes the owners understand the need for the changes. “They’re not happy about moving their businesses, but they understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” he says.
Aside from hosting a series of open houses and providing briefings at city council meetings, the company has met with residents and business owners one on one and in small groups. Such outreach efforts will continue as the project progresses, Sawyer says. “We’ll continue to keep people informed as to what’s going on.”
In the more immediate future, the changes should help people get where they want to go with less delay while making the intersections safer for cyclists, pedestrians and cars alike. “This should help traffic move more smoothly,” Sawyer says. “The changes will also create better connections that run parallel to Capitol Boulevard; that should cut down on the number of left turns and create better access to some of the businesses there.”
Initial planning work was funded by a $500,000 federal grant through the Thurston Regional Planning Council, and roughly half of the project’s $12 million in funding is provided by a grant from the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). “TIB was a natural fit for the kinds of problems we’re solving,” says Sawyer.
Currently, SCJ is wrapping up the preliminary engineering phase. NEPA and SEPA reviews are complete, and they’ll begin moving into the “Right of Way” phase, where needed properties are purchased before actual construction can begin.
Sawyer believes that ultimately, residents, businesses and those who use the corridor regularly will be satisfied with the results. “We’ve done our best to figure out solutions with broad support, not only from the Department of Transportation but with the city and the people who work and live around there.”
For more information about SCJ Alliance, visit their website or call 360-352-1465.