Pierce County Councilmembers celebrate State Route 7 improvements

Long-awaited safety and visual upgrades to state Route 7 through Parkland and Spanaway should make Pierce County residents proud to once again call the highway their “Gateway to Mount Rainier,” according to Pierce County Councilmembers.

“It’s been 47 years since this highway was last widened and it’s unlikely to be improved again in our lifetime,” said County Councilmember Barbara Gelman (District 5). “This is for our grandchildren.”

Councilmember Gelman will join state legislators and others at a ribbon cutting ceremony today in the parking lot of the Spanaway K-Mart, 17911 Pacific Ave., to celebrate the project’s completion. The two-year, $17.3 million state Department of Transportation project has transformed the look of a five-mile stretch of SR 7 from SR 512 to the Roy Y. It adds many driver and pedestrian safety improvements such as curbs, gutters, sidewalks, bike lanes, improved signal lights and street lighting, and landscaping and newly underground utility access points make the highway more aesthetically pleasing.

For decades, SR 7 — or Pacific Avenue — remained a rural highway despite carrying some of the county’s heaviest traffic volumes and amassing an accident rate nearly double that of similar commercial-access highways. Constructed in 1940, it was widened to five lanes in 1960 and hadn’t been significantly improved since.

Councilmember Gelman said Pierce County fought especially hard for landscaping, transit and pedestrian improvements such as lighting, sidewalks, bus turnouts and attractive vegetation for which the county contributed $700,000 of the project’s funding. Further visual barriers were removed by moving utility access points underground along the roadsides.

“Sidewalks, lighting and better crossings should also make the highway more inviting to pedestrians and people with disabilities who may have avoided it before,” Gelman said. “These extra amenities will be appreciated by thousands as they make their way to Mount Rainier and other beautiful parts of our county.”