Sunday, June 25, 2017 This Week's Paper

Five Mile Drive: Trial road closure proving popular, so far

An online survey shows strong support for closing parts of Point Defiance Park's Five Mile Drive to motorized vehicles in the morning. About 70 percent of the 140 people who have taken the survey like the idea of closing the road to cars, leaving it for only walkers, runners and bike riders

Since the beginning of the month, the outer loop of Five Mile Drive has been closed to motorized vehicles until 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. The roadway had been closed to cars on weekends until 1 p.m. for several years. The weekday extension of the road closure is a six-month trial as parks officials gather information with park users. Metro Parks Tacoma's board will decide the issue next spring.

“We still consider it very early in the process,” Metro Parks spokeswoman Nancy Johnson said.

The road closure does not affect access to Point Defiance’s Fort Nisqually or Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, as those attractions are on the lower half of the drive through the 700-acre park.

The idea behind closing the one-way road in the mornings is to allow pedestrians, joggers and cyclists safer access to the park without fear of vehicle traffic. The roadway often winds and curves, making it difficult for people to see oncoming cars, especially those that are speeding.

The road is too narrow to paint on a bike lane, Johnson said. Some of the turns are too tight to allow speed tables, – wider-than-usual speed bumps – since drivers might not see them in time to slow down enough to avoid damaging their cars.

The fear of pedestrian accidents along Five Mile Drive is not based on data. The Tacoma Fire Department can only find one accident along the route among the 80 calls for medical service to Point Defiance during the last two years. That one accident involved a group of drunken teens crashing a car during an afternoon drive in April. One of the four teens in the car was thrown from the car and died at the scene. The driver was charged with vehicular homicide.

None of the calls involved cars hitting pedestrians, cyclists or joggers.

That said, people have complained about near misses or having to dash across the roadway to avoid cars.

“People drive really fast through there,” Johnson said.

Widening the road to create bike or pedestrian lanes would be expensive, and would mean cutting down some of the last old-growth trees in the county.

“That forest has never been logged, ever,” Parks Commissioner Erik Hanberg said. “You don’t want to cut down the trees to widen the road to do that.”

Voice your thoughts by filling out a survey at