Greg Calahan (center), owner of O’Callahan’s Pub and Grill in Key Center, discusses future road improvements with representatives from Pierce County Public Works and Utilities. Photo by PJ Callahan

Will Key Center’s main thoroughfare become a four-lane highway? That question and more were addressed at an open house hosted by Pierce County Public Works and Utilities on Dec. 8 at Key Peninsula Civic Center.

Some 30 people attended the event, which provided local residents and businesses an opportunity to learn about future road improvements to the intersection at Key Peninsula Highway, Olson Drive and Cramer Road through displays and one-on-one discussions with county staff. There are no plans to construct a four-lane highway, but a turn lane will be added, along with some other improvements.

“Construction of sidewalks, paved shoulders, a traffic signal with crosswalks and street lighting at the intersection will benefit local pedestrians and will improve traffic safety,” Patrick Baughman, county engineering resources supervisor, said.

The project, which was identified as a “premier priority” in the Key Peninsula Community Plan, includes:

·         Adding a single northbound and southbound left turn lane on Key Peninsula Highway.
·         Widening the existing roadway to include concrete curbs, gutters, sidewalks and paved shoulders on all legs at the intersection. Crosswalks with pedestrian push buttons and streetlights will also be installed at all four corners of the intersection.
·         Improving the existing enclosed storm drain system and adding stormwater treatment facilities.
·         Replacing the existing flashing beacon traffic signal system with a new fully actuated traffic signal system that will detect and respond to traffic demand on all present streets and assign the right-of-way, as needed.

Most people who attended the open house were interested in how the roadway improvements would accommodate driveways, landscaping, signs, emergency vehicles, large-size vehicles and frontage features at adjacent properties and businesses. Property owners immediately adjacent to the project were interested in finding out about the amount of additional property that would be needed and the general schedule for when they would be contacted by Pierce County.

“I think it’s a great thing for everybody,” Greg Calahan, owner of O’Callahan’s said. “People think it’s going to affect me the most—but it’s not. I think for Key Center, it is an outstanding thing. What they’re going to do is buy a small piece of that corner, so we can revamp the ‘Welcome to Key Center’ sign. It’s going to be a great community project. You’re going to come into a little burg that has all this great stuff. I like it, I like it.”

The cost of the project is estimated at $1.86 million to be paid from county funding and a state grant. $1.33 million of the cost would be allocated for construction, with the remaining $261,000 and $260,000 for engineering and right-of-way respectively. Right-of-way acquisition is expected to begin in January 2009. Construction is expected to begin in late spring 2010.

The project design does not preclude future landscaping or streetscape amenities, including accommodating a future gateway sign near the southwest corner.

For continued updates on the project design, visit www.piercecountywa.org/crp , or contact Patrick Baughman, P.E., at 253-798-3157 or patrick.baughman@co.pierce.wa.us .

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