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Two-way traffic under consideration for parts of Point Defiance Park

February 7, 2017

Changes could make it easier to reach, depart from Zoo & Aquarium, Owen Beach, Fort Nisqually; roundabout also under discussion in Feb. 23 public meeting

Traffic Circulation Meeting
Discuss proposed two-way traffic options and roundabout
Thursday, Feb. 23; 6 pm
Point Defiance Pagoda

There’s nothing like Five Mile Drive for a scenic trip through the lush wonderland that is 760-acre Point Defiance Park.

But the one-way, meandering route can prove frustrating when you want to go directly from Pearl Street to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium or Fort Nisqually Living History Museum.

A meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Point Defiance Park Pagoda will showcase two-way traffic alternatives that could provide more efficient ways to drive in and out. Metro Parks planners and consultants have developed two-way traffic designs to streamline a few routes to and from the Zoo, Owen Beach and Fort Nisqually.

The need for improved vehicular circulation and the potential benefits of limited, two-way traffic were highlighted in Point Defiance Park’s 2015 master plan update. Some of the changes could reduce congestion on Five Mile Drive, most of which would remain one-way.

At the meeting, members of the public will be encouraged to voice opinions and make constructive suggestions on each of the proposals.

“We know how popular Point Defiance Park is, and we’re looking at ways to relieve occasional traffic snarls,” said Andrea Smith, president of the Metro Parks Board of Commissioners. “We’ve got some proposed solutions, but we really need your input to find out whether they’re appropriate. So please come and share your ideas with us.”

Also on the agenda for the Feb. 23 meeting is an outline of plans for a roundabout at the Pearl Street entrance. That construction project is expected to begin in the fall.

The two-way segments proposed would:

  • Turn the exit from the Zoo to Pearl Street into both an exit and an entrance
  • Turn the exit from Owen Beach to Five Mile Drive to both an exit and entrance. (The existing entrance to the beach from the drive would be limited to pedestrians.)
  • Link Fort Nisqually to the Mildred Street park entrance.


“Each one of these designs has its pros and cons,” said Tom Dargan, Metro Parks project administrator. “At the meeting, people will have multiple opportunities to discuss all the specific benefits and drawbacks.”

The Feb. 23 meeting is the third in a series of public sessions seeking suggestions from park users and others who care about how Metro Parks deals with Point Defiance Park traffic and increased visitation. Already, the park draws about 3 million visitors annually, a number expected to increase with the 2018 opening of the Pacific Seas Aquarium and the peninsula next to Tacoma Yacht Club.

The first traffic-related meeting, held in September, focused on plans for a new pedestrian and bicycle pathway. The second, in December, dealt with parking and alternative access to the park. The overall goal is to make it easier for visitors to safely get to and from their favorite park destinations, whether they choose to walk or ride.

The planning effort is funded through a $198 million capital improvement bond approved by Metro Parks voters in 2014. It is part of the broader Destination Point Defiance initiative, which includes not only an update to the park’s master plan in 2015 but also the Pacific Seas Aquarium, waterfront improvements, viewpoint improvements, infrastructure upgrades and additional work.

In addition to gathering feedback at public meetings, Metro Parks plans to launch a survey on paper and online to gauge the public’s response to the proposals. Citizens also may contact Dargan directly at or (253) 305-1017.

Multiple ways to get information and weigh in

Public meeting

  • When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017
  • Where: Point Defiance Pagoda

Direct comment

  • If you are unable to attend and would like to comment, contact Project Administrator Tom Dargan at or (253) 305-1017.

Community presentations

  • If your community group or civic organization would like a Metro Parks representative to speak about plans for improved traffic circulation and parking in Point Defiance Park, please contact Public Affairs Officer Hunter George at or (253) 305-1065.


  • Metro Parks and its consultants will create a survey to help gauge citizens’ reactions to different options. Once complete, the survey will be available online at and in various locations throughout the park.