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Frequently Asked Questions about Cross-Base

Nobody has ever much wanted the Cross-Base Highway anyway, and there are a lot of reasons why. Read on...

With so many highways in Washington, what's wrong with this one?

What is the Cross-Base Highway?

Camas blooming in the oak-woodland prairie at Fort Lewis.jpgThe Cross-Base Highway (SR 704) is a four-lane, six-mile proposed highway that would run between Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base in Pierce County. Proponents promise that it will solve congestion and promote economic development. While government figures prove that it does neither (SR 704 Final EIS), it threatens McChord Air Force Base with closure and will encourage uncontrolled sprawl.

There are prairies in western Washington?

Water howellia, a native plant of ponds and lakes now limited to rare populations Western Washington, northwest Oregon, and northern Idaho. Photo © Rod GilbertThe rarest form of habitat in Washington, the endangered western prairies once covered 150,000 (some estimates say 250,000) acres in pre-settlement times. Covering most of Pierce, Thurston, and Mason counties and extending into portions of Lewis, Cowlitz, Clark, Wahkiakum, Island, and Clallam counties, the westside grasslands are the legacy of the Vashon glaciation. Small patches of prairie habitat also existed outside the Puget Sound lowlands, most notably in the San Juan Islands and near the Columbia River Gorge. Due to the combination of agriculture, development and invasive species, native prairie species now cover less than less than 3% of their original area. The areas that do exist are highly fragmented, existing as patches of specific and unique habitat for numerous species, including at least nine threatened plant and animal species, among them the Mardon skipper butterfly, the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, the western gray squirrel, the streaked horned lark, the northern spotted owl, the bald eagle, the Mazama pocket gopher, golden paintbrush, and water Howellia, a wetland plant. Today the largest remaining piece of native prairie is an artillery range in Fort Lewis.

Which businesses are affected and why would they close?

A visit to the oak woodland prairie on baseLakewood is home to a unique equestrian community that provides jobs for 25 people and stables for 200 horses. The onsite training areas extend controlled access to the adjoining prairie, providing recreation for riders at these facilities. The proposed highway would flank the entire equestrian community, compromising their ability to safely train horses and teach children. Highway noise creates an unacceptable danger by startling horses. Moreover, the proposed road imposes a barrier to the prairie and the recreation it has afforded for decades. Additionally, Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Bases are Pierce County's largest employers, with annual payrolls nearing $1.5 billion. The Cross-Base Highway threatens the security of these bases, their future operability, and the jobs associated with them.

Do safer, less expensive alternatives exist?

With limited funds, legislators would be wise to consider cost-effective alternatives for south county transportation. The existing rail line to Frederickson can move freight to Port of Tacoma. Sound Transit has proposed moving commuters on it to the Tacoma Dome Station. A study has shown commuter trip reduction programs surpass the Cross-Base in reducing congestion at north/south intersections. That beats spending $477 million on a new highway that creates congestion.

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