Realignment of 17th Street Reveals the Past

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Collaborating with the City of Tacoma, UW Tacoma has finished reconstructing 17th Street on the northern edge of campus.

Above: Revealing layers of history, original brick paving is unearthed during 17th St. reconstruction on UW Tacoma campus.

City of Tacoma's utility work is well under way on UW Tacoma's 17th & Jefferson reconstruction.It’s finally happened: after four long months of construction, you can now walk safely down a sidewalk or drive your car in a straight line from Broadway to Pacific Avenue on South 17th Street.

The reconstruction project was born from an unusual collaboration when, a few years back, UW Tacoma went to City of Tacoma officials with the idea of realigning South 17th Street so that students and non-students alike could safely and easily pass through to Pacific Avenue. Originally, a small green space intersected South 17th Street between Broadway and South Commerce Street, causing vehicles to navigate their way around the space by backtracking up Jefferson Avenue.

The collaboration between the city and UW Tacoma not only realigned the street, but also allowed the city to complete utility upgrades and work that focused on storm runoff.  “They’re looking at outfall from the upper watershed and how to divert it from South 19th Street,” says Patrick Clark, director of campus planning and real estate.

A brand new stretch of 17th St. flows up the hill along north edge of UW Tacoma campus.Construction work 18 inches and above street level was the job of the university, and everything a foot and a half below street level was in care of the city. “Our work included the realignment, the intersection, the striping, the asphalt work, the sidewalks, the curbing, the bulb outs for traffic control, the redirection of parking, and new street lamps that will come in at the end of the month,” Clark says. The street lamps will mirror the look of those on campus, and will better align with the historical feel of the block than the current lights.

Underground, the city installed new utility vaults, a five-foot storm drain, and all new water service lines. “I think it was a good partnership,” Clark concludes.

The University of Tacoma put up $1.25 million to fund the $2.05 million project, and the City of Tacoma provided the additional $800,000 to make up the rest. Northwest  Cascade, Inc., won the bid for the project in October of 2014 and began construction on January 12th, 2015. South 17th Street opened for traffic on May 7th.

Written by: 
Rachel Ervin / May 19, 2015
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or