Monthslong project begins in Tumwater

TUMWATER - The Walmart near Littlerock Road may not open until summer, but a nearby intersection is undergoing major changes to make sure it can handle the anticipated increase in traffic.

Crews led by Engineered Structures Inc., started sidewalk and vegetation removal along Trosper Road and Tyee Drive this week, part of a three-month project that includes widening the southbound on- and offramps of Interstate 5. Once completed, the offramp will have two left-turn lanes, a through lane and a right-turn only lane, project superintendent David Reich said.

The new left-turn lane will help get drivers through the interchange more efficiently and reduce backups that sometimes leave motorists sitting through several light cycles, said Lisa Copeland, regional communication manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

A traffic study completed by a Walmart consultant found the new store will increase traffic at the intersection by 11 percent, according to the City of Tumwater’s public works department.

The upgrades, which are paid for by Walmart, come as part of agreement between the company and the state to mitigate higher traffic volumes, according to DOT. In an e-mail response Monday, a spokesperson for Walmart said it is the company’s policy not to disclose costs associated with mitigation projects.

Traffic numbers from February 2010 show about 1,230 vehicles used the southbound offramps during the peak evening hour, according to DOT.

It’s estimated the store will generate more than 9,800 daily trips from all routes – not just the Trosper intersection – during weekdays, with peak hour trips topping 800, according to the city.

Traffic effects due to construction won’t be felt until the middle of this month, when the first lane closures are expected.

Once road work begins, drivers can expect closures between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays until work wraps up in June, according to DOT.

Some 24-hour lane and ramp closures are expected, including when crews put down the final layer of pavement.

“But that’s further on in the project, Reich said, adding that those closures won’t take place until construction wraps up in late May or early June.

“We can’t pave until April,” he said.

Day work will take place between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and will generally not impact traffic.

Other work includes installing more street lights and three traffic signals, as well as a new detention pond.

This week, crews are also expected to begin grading work on the southbound loop ramp.

Reich, who is also one of the project superintendents for the Walmart construction, said construction continues to move forward at the site. He said he’s heard dates in July linked to the grand opening.

The Walmart spokesperson confirmed the company anticipates opening the Tumwater location this summer but a specific date is not confirmed.

Site work includes pouring concrete flooring inside the building. Outside, the roof and exterior of the building are finished.

In addition to traffic numbers, the other set of figures the City of Tumwater will pay close attention to is Walmart’s boost to city sales-tax revenue.

The city estimates it will collect $545,000 annually in sales tax from the store, more than enough to cover the $71,000 in spending the city estimates is required to provide services to the store, according to a spokeswoman for the city.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 nhulings@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/outsideoly