Residents oppose plan for new Camp Murray gate

Residents in the Tillicum neighborhood of Lakewood are concerned that a plan for a new main gate serving Camp Murray will turn a quiet neighborhood street into a busy and unsafe thoroughfare.

Washington Military Department officials say the current location of the main gate represents a danger to the public and they need to act fast to remedy it. It’s located next to one of Lakewood’s most collision-prone intersections, an Interstate 5 interchange and a railroad that’s the planned line for high-speed passenger trains.

“It’s a disaster just waiting to happen,” said Col. Duane Coffey, director of construction and facilities management for the Washington National Guard. Camp Murray is the home of the Washington Military Department and Washington National Guard.

An average of 1,400 vehicles drive into Camp Murray each workday, Coffey said.

But neighbors say the military’s plans, which would move the gate one-third of a mile north, don’t solve anything.

“All they’ve done is transfer the problem,” said Ed Dennery, who lives in the Eagle Point gated neighborhood on the shores of American Lake.

Neighbors are also upset that no one thought to inform them of the proposal until late in the process.

If everything falls into place, the military department is scheduled to solicit bids for construction next month.

The new gate could be open next summer, at the earliest.

David Anderson, president of the Tillicum Neighborhood Association, said military officials have put the project on the fast track “and we happen to be in the slow lane.”

“I fail to see either the practicality or necessity of moving the gate,” said Anderson, who added that his phone has “been ringing off the hook” since word got out about the proposal.

The new gate is the most visible and controversial project the military department has identified as it charts Camp Murray’s development for the next 25 years.

Officials plan to close the main gate at the intersection of Berkeley Street and Union Avenue and construct a new gate at the corner of Portland Avenue and Boundary Street. The project will cost $4.7 million.

The goal is to reduce the number of vehicles using the I-5 interchange serving Berkeley Street. Drivers waiting to get onto Camp Murray can back up onto I-5 in the morning, officials said.

The department also is concerned about the Point Defiance bypass, a plan to route Amtrak trains travelling up to 79 mph down the rail line that crosses Berkeley and parallels Camp Murray. The proposal is on hold as the state conducts a study assessing the traffic impacts.

With a gate relocation, officials contend it will be more convenient for drivers to use the I-5 interchange serving North Thorne Lane as it connects with Portland Avenue, a neighborhood street. Vehicles exiting from Camp Murray also will no longer immediately encounter the rail line, Coffey said.

He said many people already use the alternate route to reach Camp Murray and there will be no dramatic increase in traffic.

Anderson, who lives on the street, disagrees.

Coffey said the gate will be designed and operated so incoming vehicles will not stack up on public streets.

Have your say

What: Washington Military Department public meeting on a proposed new main gate at Camp Murray

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Tillicum Community Center, 14916 Washington Ave. S.W.