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Loss of shortcut backing up main roads in Puyallup

(City of Puyallup)

Taking shortcuts through is just a fact of life in Puget Sound as drivers look for any faster way through gridlock. But what happens when a popular shortcut is blocked?

Shaw Road is a popular alternative to South Meridian or Highway 512 into Puyallup and for avoiding SR 167 into Sumner. Sixteen thousand cars a day roll through this neighborhood street to access Sumner or Highway 410.

The city closed it about three weeks ago for a major construction project, and the impact was felt immediately. The roads that people were avoiding by using Shaw were suddenly full.

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“A lot more stop and go,” said Ted Hill, a capital projects manager for the city and a Shaw Road driver.

Alternates like Highway 162 and Military Road East were suddenly jammed. The light at that intersection couldn’t handle all the diverted traffic. And now diversion has now reached the 512/167 corridor.

KIRO Radio listener Tracie said her daily morning drive into Renton is now running 15 to 30 minutes longer than usual.

This is a perfect example of the tenuous hold we have on our drives. Because of our geography and the way our roads are connected, we are really just one crash or small construction project like this one away from regional gridlock.

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Because you’re stuck on this one possibly until the end of the year, here’s an explanation of what’s happening: The City of Puyallup is widening about a mile of Shaw Road to add a dedicated center turn lane. Hill said the road has become so busy with commuters that residents are having a difficult time turning into their local streets. This project will get those drivers out of the through-lanes and improve traffic flow.

“Each one of those locals that stop is just another queue, and they start adding up and adding up and adding up,” Hill said.

There are detours set up to help people get to their homes, but there is no way to cut through. There are barricades on either side of the closure. The city hopes drivers stick with the main road detours instead of speeding through unfamiliar neighborhoods.

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