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WSDOT To Study Traffic Patterns on I-5

Over the next two weeks, crews will study traffic patterns between Interstate 5 interchanges, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the greater Lakewood area.

But they aren’t going to use traffic-counting devices. No one is going to be standing on a corner counting cars, either.

As part of an “Origin-Destination” study being conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation – which is part of a larger I-5 JBLM Interchange Justification Report (IJR) - crews will be installing solar-powered devices that can pick up Bluetooth signals and track the routes of drivers.

Those devices will track how many vehicles use I-5 to access JBLM and surrounding areas. That data will help determine the South Sound’s transportation future in terms of what improvements are needed in one of the most congested regions in the state.

“The study is ultimately going to help determine how big I-5 should be and whether local roads should be built to alleviate that,” said Desiree Winkler, Transportation Division Manager at the City of Lakewood.

The devices, called “BlueMAC Readers,” identify partial Bluetooth signals, everything from a cell phone to a wireless headset to Bluetooth-enabled vehicles.

According to the Transpo Group, which is installing the equipment, the readers provide one-way, passive communication from a vehicle or mobile device. Each reader is equipped with a transmitter - same as any cell phone - that uploads the data in real-time to the cloud. The readers can be monitored remotely to review their performance and track travel times and patterns via a secure online portal.

An obvious question: Do the devices spy on drivers and infringe on privacy?

The answer: An emphatic “No.”

The data that the devices are collecting are partial Bluetooth signals, so they can’t be traced to a specific person or device. Many of the devices will be installed on JBLM – where there are strict privacy regulations and airfields with navigation systems - and they’ve been approved by base officials.

“This is really to understand the traffic patterns of cars going in and out of JBLM,” Winkler said. “Currently, the assumption is cars are using I-5 to get from one point on the base to another. This is a good way to know exactly if that’s happening.”

Pictured: An example of a solar-powered, BlueMAC reader that was installed in Seattle. Photo courtesy of Transpo Group.

Welcoming Back Our Council and New Judge

The first regular Lakewood City Council meeting of 2014 was a busy one.

The City ceremoniously welcomed its new judge, as well as welcomed back its Mayor, Deputy and recently elected members of the City Council on Monday night.

First, hours after taking the bench for the first time, Lakewood Municipal Court Judge Grant Blinn was officially sworn into office. Blinn comes to the City of Lakewood from the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, where he most recently served as homicide chief. He will preside over the Municipal Court of Lakewood, University Place and Steilacoom.

His first duty after that was to swear in the Lakewood City Councilmembers who were elected into office last year: Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen, Councilmember Mike Brandstetter, Councilmember Mary Moss and Councilmember John Simpson. Whalen, Brandstetter and Moss were re-elected to their positions, while Simpson was elected to the vacant seat of former Councilmember Helen McGovern. (For information on Lakewood City Councilmembers, visit http://goo.gl/tpMidc )

Finally, the Lakewood City Council re-elected Mayor Don Anderson and Deputy Mayor Whalen to their respective positions for another two years. Mayor Anderson was elected to his position in early 2013, when then-Mayor Douglas Richardson was elected to the Pierce County Council. Whalen was also chosen for the position at the time.

On Monday night, the Lakewood City Council also read a proclamation declaring Jan. 20 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, heard reports from the Clover Park School District and the Lakewood Youth Council, as well as a presentation from South Sound 911 Director Andrew Neiditz.

To view a gallery of Monday night’s meeting, visit http://goo.gl/2YoPeL .

City of Lakewood to Assume Lease of Fort Steilacoom Park

Fort Steilacoom Park has always been considered one of the crown jewels of Lakewood.

Now, the City in which that 340-acre jewel is located will soon assume control of the park’s current lease through the State of Washington. This week, the Lakewood City Council voted to assume control of the lease from Pierce County.

Fort Steilacoom Park is owned by the State of Washington, leased by Pierce County and managed and maintained by the City of Lakewood via an interlocal agreement. Pierce County paid $50,000 annually to the City under the current agreement, is set to expire Dec. 31, 2014.

Assuming control of the lease allows the City of Lakewood to work directly with the State of Washington regarding future land use issues at the park, which generates hundreds of thousands of visits annually and is the venue for regional cross-country meets, events such as Truck and Tractor Day and the Lakewood SummerFEST Triathlon, a popular dog park and other amenities that draw people from around the region.

“We will be able to continue a great working relationship with the State of Washington,” remarked Mayor Don Anderson. “The thing that’s most important is users of Fort Steilacoom Park won’t notice a thing, meaning the park will still be managed and maintained as well as it is today. That’s a good thing.”

The official transfer is expected to take place sometime in 2014.

For more information on Fort Steilacoom Park and the City of Lakewood’s other parks, visit /government/departments/parks-and-recreation

Lakewood To Swear In Recently Elected City Councilmembers, Judge

On Monday, January 6, the City of Lakewood will ceremoniously welcome its recently elected members of the City Council, as well as its recently appointed Municipal Court Judge.

The City will hold a swearing-in ceremony for Grant Blinn, its new Municipal Court Judge. Blinn - who comes to Lakewood from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, where he most recently served as homicide chief – will preside over the Municipal Court of Lakewood, University Place and Steilacoom.

The City will also conduct swearing-in ceremonies for City Councilmembers Mike Brandstetter, Mary Moss, John Simpson and Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen – all of whom won election to the dais in November.

Also on the agenda for Monday:

  • Youth Council Report
  • Proclamation School Board recognition month
  • Proclamation MLK Day and Black History month
  • Clover Park School District Report
  • South Sound 911 update

The meeting is scheduled to begin 7 p.m., Monday, January 6, at Lakewood City Hall Council Chambers, 6000 Main Street, Lakewood.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Photo Contest

It’s that time of year.

Holly, you ask? No.

Carols? Not really.

Grandpa’s unusually strong eggnog? Close, but no.

What we’re talking about is the time-honored tradition of ugly Christmas sweaters! That’s right, whether it’s a bedazzled moose head across your abdomen or a 40-watt Christmas tree made of rash-inducing wool, everyone loves ugly Christmas sweaters. And by everyone, we mean only those who own an ugly Christmas sweater.

In fact, Friday is National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day, when millions across the U.S. will celebrate these horribly-tacky-but-tacky-in-a-cool-retro-sort-of-way fabrics of Americana.

To pay homage to this time-honored tradition, the City of Lakewood is introducing its first Ugly Christmas Sweater Photo Contest!

Here’s how it works: Take a picture of yourself or your family in your favorite ugly Christmas sweaters and submit the photo to the City. There are a couple of ways you can share the photo:

  1. Post it to the City’s Facebook page or send us a message
  2. Send us a message via Twitter @CityofLakewood
  3. Share it via Instagram @cityoflakewoodwa
  4. E-mail

*Be sure to include your name and the title of your sweater

On Friday – in celebration of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day – we’ll ask our social media users to vote for their favorite! The winners will get something out of the City’s ugly Christmas sweater prize bin, which currently contains unopened bags of coffee and a mug, a beginning canning kit, a child-sized t-shirt from this month’s Jingle Bell Rock 5K and a beach ball.

As awesome as those items sound, the true crown is showing off to friends and family that you own the title of Lakewood’s Best Ugly Christmas Sweater.

So c’mon, Lakewood! Be proud. Be loud. Be unabashedly unashamed of those ugly Christmas sweaters!