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Cross-Base Highway and the oak-woodland prairie

The proposed Cross-Base Highway near Tacoma, Washington, would destroy much of a remnant rare oak-woodland prairie and its native prairie wildlife.


If built, it would bisect one of the last remaining oak prairie woodlands in western Washington and destroy 162 acres of unique old-growth oak woodlands.

The Puget Sound's lowland oak-woodland prairies once covered more than 150,000 acres. Today, agriculture, development, and invasive species have shrunk Washington's native prairie habitat to just 3 percent. The Cross-Base Highway proposed between Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base in Pierce County would destroy a rare remaining Washington prairie and a native wildlife refuse.

Questions about the Cross-Base Highway and south Puget Sound prairies

An estimated $400 million dollar construction price has put the Cross-Base Highway into a holding pattern - for now. However, more than the huge economic cost make this project a loser.

Taylor's checkerspot on blue camas
Taylor's checkerspot on blue camas

Prairie wildlife put at risk

Construction of the proposed highway endangers habitat for 19 state and federal listed bird species and 4 prairie dependent species. The rare wildlife at risk by the highway are streaked horned lark, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, Mazama pocket gopher, western gray squirrel, and water howellia.

In October 2013, streaked horned lark and Taylor's checkerspot butterfly were afforded protections and critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act, and their status recognized as threatened (lark) and endangered (butterfly). A decision to protect Mazama pocket gopher, another at-risk prairie species, was delayed in August 2013 for up to six months.

Unnecessary, costly: Cross-Base Highway

The Cross-Base Highway ranked last of all projects proposed in Pierce County in a 2003 public poll on regional transportation planning and projects (contracted by the Regional Transportation Investment District). Only 10% of those polled judged it a project important to the region.

A report prepared by the Washington State Legislature's Joint Committee on Veterans and Military Affairs in 2004, "Military Bases in Our Communities," identified a concern that putting a Cross-Base Highway along the southern end of the McChord Air Force base will make it difficult to use the entire base and may jeopardize the future of the base.

The Cross-Base Highway does not address Washington State's highest priorities of transportation safety and maintenance issues. It could actually increase travel distances for drivers. According to the environmental impact statement for the project, “Overall, people would travel a little farther to use the new Cross-Base Highway project to avoid other congested highways and roads; this would increase miles driven.” (Cross-Base Highway FEIS, p. 4-201)

The Cross-Base Highway if built would force equestrian-related businesses in Lakewood along the route to close. These businesses stable more than 200 horses and provide 25 local jobs. Housing along portions of the route would be receive a mere 10-foot buffer from the roadway to their property lines.

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