CHOKEPOINTS

Sullivan: Pierce County’s Spanaway Loop shortcut to close for four months

Jun 20, 2024, 5:56 AM

spanaway loop pacific avenue...

Crews working during a previous phase of the same Parkland/Brookdale Interceptor sewer project. (Photo courtesy of Pierce County)

(Photo courtesy of Pierce County)

Nobody likes driving Highway 7 — or Pacific Avenue as it’s known — between State Route 512 and Spanaway. It’s crowded. It’s congested. It’s bursting at the seams.

That’s why a lot of drivers hit Spanaway Loop Road, which hugs the east side of Joint Base Lewis–McChord (JBLM) and avoids all the congestion on Pacific Avenue. It’s such a popular shortcut that it’s now the second-busiest corridor in the area, but it’s about to go away for four months as a major sewer line improvement will rip up the road.

Spanaway Loop Road is expected to close in late July or early August between 116th Street and Garfield Street, near Washington High School.

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Workers are replacing an old, corroded pipe, with a new 72-inch diameter pipe as the county upgrades its sewer system.

“You open up a deep line like this is and all you’re just going to get is a very very wide trench,” Steve Chanfrau, engineering manager for the Pierce County sewer utility, said. “There wouldn’t be any road left to be able to bring traffic on so this was the best way to do it and to get them in and out of there as quickly as possible.”

Chanfrau said they looked for other places to put the pipe, but this was the best spot.

“Believe me, we tried every possible way to try to put this somewhere else, but this was the only place that we could put this and meet both of our goals of up-sizing the line and replacing the corroded line that’s already there,” he said.

With Spanaway Loop Road ripped up, the county will also re-pave more than a mile of it — the stretch from the closure down to Military Road. Drivers should expect several months of closures and disruptions. The only real detour will be the already crowded Pacific Avenue.

“Most of that I believe is being shunted over to Pacific Avenue, just because of the amount of flow,” Chanfrau said. “Obviously people are going to find their way.”

This four-month closure is expected to cause huge delays in the area.

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“Please be patient,” Chanfrau said. “Be kind to the traffic control people. We’re doing as much as we can to keep things open.”

This is just Phase 4 of a six-phase project to improve the 40-year-old sewer system. The old pipes in this area are expected to reach their capacity in 2028 so replacing them now is necessary. The closure of Spanaway Loop Road is expected to last into the school year, which will cause problems for Washington High School, Keithly Middle School and Pacific Lutheran University.

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Sullivan: Pierce County’s Spanaway Loop shortcut to close for four months