Alaska Street reopens with smooth and scenic drive

The end of delayed traffic and periodic road closures is here. City of Tacoma staffers, elected officials and area residents held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the “green” Alaska Street Roadway Project on Aug. 29.

The roadwork included the addition of sidewalks, curb ramps, bike lanes, street lights, landscaping, porous concrete pavement and pedestrian islands to improve driver and walker safety as well as be better for the environment with improved storm mains, sanitary sewer mains and power lines. The roadway is now set to receive a “greenroads” certification for its environmental features.

The almost complete reworking of the 5,400 feet of roadway between South 56th and South 72nd streets began in late 2011, which meant months of lane closures and detours. This segment was the last stretch of new roadway that now spans from South 38th to South 72nd streets and was coordinated with the nearby Metro Parks roster of improvements for Wapato Lake Park. 

“It was really fun to watch the park redevelopment alongside this project,” Deputy Mayor Joe Lonergan said, noting that the new road not only provides a scenic view of the park but the sidewalk intentionally dips into the park property to tie the park more into the neighborhood and make for a more enjoyable walk along the roadway.

Money for the roadwork came from the City of Tacoma and the Washington State Department of Transportation, through the Transportation Improvement Board in the form of a $5 million grant, which the city matched with $1 million of its own. The down economy, however, put the final price tag of the work at only $3 million. The remaining $2 million in grant dollars will now be used for road improvements around the state.

The Alaska Street improvements were dearly needed as the roadway was beginning to require constant pothole repairs.

“You were really taking your life into your hands,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.

The road often serves for a secondary route for drivers stuck in Interstate 5 traffic because it runs parallel to I-5 on Tacoma’s South End, providing an option for people heading to and from downtown who are looking to avoid the gridlock along the interstate during commute times.


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