What About the Extra Trucks?by Kelly Kearsley, Senior Editor
The News Tribune, August 8, 2007
Officials say road and rail improvements should help the Port of Tacoma and
the cities of Tacoma and Fife cope with extra traffic from a new Blair Waterway terminal.
A new container terminal in Tacoma's Tideflats will likely mean more trucks on the road. The Port of Tacoma is anticipating a slight increase in street traffic with the redevelopment of the East Blair Peninsula into shipping container terminals, according to Brian Mannelly, the agency's acting planning director. "When it all shakes out, there will be a modest increase in overall trips," Mannelly said in a recent interview.
The Port of Tacoma plans to build a 168-acre shipping container terminal for Toyko-based NYK Line. The terminal is scheduled to open in 2012, but planning for the road and rail improvements needed to sustain the growth has already started.
Mannelly crunched some preliminary numbers on the amount of traffic the new development will generate. According to his estimates:
The port hired Heffron Transportation last year to study the volume of trucks moving through the Tideflats. The study cost $55,000 and used video cameras to record trucks traveling at different points around the area.
The study reports that an average of 1,100 trucks travel the East Blair Peninsula now on any given day. (The number of trucks driving through the Tideflats in a five-day period in December was 43,727, which averages about 8,700 per day.)
The number sounds about right to Mike Schuller, vice president of marketing for American Fast Freight. Located on the peninsula, American Fast Freight coordinates the shipment of goods to Alaska. It alone receives hundreds of deliveries per week to fill containers it sends north.
The port's development of the East Blair will displace many businesses, including American Fast Freight, which plans to move to Fife.
So when it comes to semi-trucks, the port's estimates have the current businesses generating close to the same amount of truck traffic as a future terminal.
The displaced businesses will take their employees with them, reducing the traffic they generate as well, the port reports.
But the estimates of future traffic don't account for a few key things. SSA Marine and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians also plan to develop a shipping terminal on the east side of the Blair Waterway. The numbers also don't figure any growth of the remaining businesses, such as Carlile Transportation, a trucking company on Taylor Way.
That's where Mannelly sees even more increases.
"I think it's a good start," he said of the estimates. But he'll have a better understanding of how traffic will play out on the peninsula as the planning for the NYK terminal moves along.
Businesses owners and Tacoma and Fife city officials are expecting the local traffic to worsen, especially where the trucks get on and off Interstate 5.
"Truck traffic is part of the economy," said Jim Reinbold, Fife assistant city manager. "The assumption is that as the port expands so does traffic."
But officials are hoping road improvements will make the growth easier to handle.
Extending Highway 167 to I-5 tops many people's wish list. Mannelly noted that repairing the Hylebos Bridge will be necessary for any new terminal development - the bridge provides a second way off the peninsula.
Leigh Starr, the city's interim engineering division manager, said the city remains $5 million short of the money it needs to repair the bridge.
The port is funding the improvement of the freeway ramps at the Port of Tacoma Road.
Modifying the Taylor Way-Highway 509 intersection and widening Taylor Way are also being considered.
"We want to be confident we don't create a situation worse than the existing conditions and find opportunities to improve intersection levels of service and roadway capacity that offset the project impacts," Mannelly said.
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