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NEW TRAFFIC SIGNAL SYSTEM ACTIVATED

A new traffic signal system was activated on Feb. 6 at the intersection of 78th Avenue East and 184th Street East to improve intersection operations.

The intersection was widened to add left turn lanes for 78th Avenue East.

Crews previously added street lighting at the intersection, built a new stormwater pond on the west side of 78th Avenue East, and added a sidewalk along the south side of 184th Street East.

The new signal system will be connected to the existing traffic signals at 192nd Street East and at 176th Street East to allow for coordination between the signals.

Active Construction, Inc. is the contractor. The construction cost is approximately $1.7 million. The project is funded by County Road Funds.

A project webpage: www.co.pierce.wa.us/2855/78th-Ave-E-184th-St-E.

BETTER MERGING, TRIP RELIABILITY COMING TO WESTBOUND SR 16

People who use westbound State Route 16 between Sprague Avenue and Pearl Street in Tacoma may soon have a quicker trip during peak commute hours.

Beginning Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Washington State Department of Transportation will meter traffic entering westbound SR 16 from the following four on-ramps:

  • Sprague Avenue
  • Union Avenue
  • South Orchard Street
  • Pearl Street

Ramp meters are traffic signals that operate according to real-time conditions on both the highway and the ramp. They help improve safety and reduce congestion at merge areas by providing consistent gaps between vehicles, rather than allowing multiple vehicles to flood the highway at once.

“Ramp meters installed on eastbound SR 16 have been active since 2007,” said WSDOT Freeway Operations Manager Tony Leingang. “They continue to be a proven, cost-effective approach to reducing freeway congestion and collisions, providing drivers a better, more reliable trip.”

WSDOT installed ramp meters and roadway vehicle sensors on State Route 16 at these four interchanges during a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) improvement project in 2007. As with all WSDOT’s ramp meters, they will not operate continuously and will only be activated when traffic conditions warrant their use.

Daytime testing of each ramp meter is scheduled for off-peak hours on Monday, Feb. 12. Once activated, WSDOT will monitor the traffic patterns on the ramps and nearby surface streets, and will make adjustments as needed.

CITY WORKS TO INCREASE AWARENESS OF CRISIS TEXT LINE

As part of its continued efforts to help address the mental health needs of the Tacoma community, the City of Tacoma has partnered with Crisis Text Line, a not-for-profit organization that provides free crisis intervention via SMS text message to people in crisis. Although individual mobile phone usage rates may apply, the organization’s services are available at no charge, via SMS text message, 24 hours a day, every day. Helping to raise awareness of this free service, the City has put up new “Crisis Counseling – Crisis Text Line – Text HEAL to 741741” signage on East 34th Street Bridge in Tacoma.

“We care deeply about our community members,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards. “Tacoma was the very first city in Washington state to enter into this type of partnership with Crisis Text Line, which allows live, trained counselors to rapidly analyze – using texted keywords – the various situations that individuals may be experiencing.”

Based on the keywords they see over text messages, Crisis Text Line counselors identify how to best address the individual needs of those in crisis. Every texter is connected by Crisis Text Line with a live crisis counselor trained to bring texters from a hot moment to a cool calm through active listening and collaborative problem solving. Crisis Text Line also collects data which will be used to inform future efforts.

The City uses special tax revenue to provide services that support mental health and substance use disorder services to Tacoma residents.

More information about Crisis Text Line is available at crisistextline.org. Information about the City’s Neighborhood and Community Services Department is available at cityoftacoma.org/NCS.

CITY LAUNCHES YOUTH HISTORICAL FICTION COMPETITION

The City of Tacoma’s Historic Preservation Office, in partnership with local literary non-profits Write253 and Creative Colloquy, has launched an inaugural youth historical fiction competition, “Bringing Tacoma’s History to Life.” The competition, which is geared towards high school age students, offers a series of four prompts about decisive but little-known moments in Tacoma’s history.

“These prompts ask students to reflect on the local landmarks and landscapes that they already know in a new, creative way,” said Assistant Historic Preservation Officer Lauren Hoogkamer.

The prompts range in location, time period, and focus, and are all included in a new resource guide for teachers, complete with the competition guidelines, discussion guide, and historical prompts. Each prompt provides historical background information for students, historic photos, and excerpts from era newspapers. The prompts then ask students to develop their own cast of characters, locate them in this particular time and place, and develop a narrative related to these historical events. The resource guide is available digitally on the Write253 and City of Tacoma websites.

“These are important moments in Tacoma’s past, and all of them have present-day relevance,” said Michael Haeflinger, executive director of youth writing and literary organization Write253. “These prompts offer rich canvases for youth to imagine what life was like in Tacoma in the 20th century.”

Youth writers can pick any of the four prompts to develop a piece of original historical fiction. Submissions will be judged by a panel of local historians and writers. Each submission must be under 2,000 words in length, include a short bibliography, and be written by someone 18 or under who lives in Pierce County.

Submissions are being accepted Feb. 15-March 30. To download the resource guide with writing prompts and competition guidelines, visit cityoftacoma.org/youthfictioncompetition. To find out more about the competition, email landmarks@cityoftacoma.org, or call (253) 591-5254.

OPIOID RESCUE KITS AVAILABLE FREE OF CHARGE

The Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) is pioneering community distribution of free rescue kits containing the life-saving opioid overdose medication, Narcan, packaged as an easy-to-administer, fast-acting nasal spray. The free kits also include information about recovery programs available in the community.

“We want to move beyond simply treating opioid overdoses to treating the underlying addiction,” said Tacoma Fire Chief Jim Duggan. “After reversing a life-threatening overdose, TFD paramedics are well-positioned to provide referral information at a time when an individual might be most receptive to encouragement to enter a recovery program.”

After providing emergency treatment to an opioid patient, TFD paramedics would offer the patient or their companion a free kit.

“Included in that referral information is the phone number for our highly successful TFD CARES program,” said TFD Medical Services Officer Mike Newhouse. “Through TFD CARES, TFD nurses can help opioid patients navigate their way through the local healthcare system and find medical care for their addiction.”

“We recognize that the distribution or later use of the free kits is not the end solution, but it serves as a mechanism to begin the conversation of access to care, treatment and recovery,” said TFD firefighter and paramedic Kurt Gordon, who is coordinating the pilot program.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, statewide, approximately two individuals die each day from opioid overdose. Locally, TFD has seen a 50 percent increase since 2013 in the administration of Narcan by paramedics for opioid-related emergency incidents.

This pilot project has been made possible through the Tacoma Fire Department’s partnership with the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute and the Point Defiance AIDs Project. Funding comes from a statewide, five-year grant through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

BILL WOULD KEEP NARROWS BRIDGE TOLLS FLAT

A bill sponsored by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place, would solve the problem of escalating tolls on the Tacoma Narrow Bridge by freezing them at a fixed rate and then borrowing funds from the multimodal transportation account to cover the amount necessary to pay any difference between toll revenue and rising debt service until the bonds are fully paid off.

SB 6547, which was discussed in hearing on Feb. 5 before the Senate Transportation Committee, would use transportation funds to cover costs of future increases to debt payments, keeping toll rates flat instead of rising, as expected, to cover escalating debt payments and operating costs. This bill would set up a series of loans to cover the debt payments and costs from 2020-2030. With this bill, it is expected that the toll rate will remain flat for Good To Go! users at $5.50. The east end of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is located in Sen. O’Ban’s district.

“This presents a genuine opportunity to solve the ever-increasing toll rates on the bridge and keep more money in the pockets of residents who depend on this critical transportation artery,” said O’Ban. “Tolls have increased dramatically and are scheduled to continue increasing under current law. With this legislation, it will be like refinancing an adjustable rate mortgage that is going up every year and converting it into an affordable, fixed rate mortgage.”

The Tacoma Narrows bridge debt service is currently funded without drawing from any state tax dollars. As a result, construction costs, interest payments and other debt service costs are taken directly from tolls.

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