Get to know the project team! Meet Brian Johnston

You may have heard of the Canyon Road Regional Connection project, but you may not know much about the engineers, planners, environmental experts, and others responsible for delivering on the vision of a more direct route from the Port of Tacoma to the Frederickson Industrial Area to fruition.

Some of these team members have worked for almost a decade on this project! We thought it was high time you get to know the team members you’re likely to meet at an upcoming community meeting or a virtual town hall.

Today, we’re featuring Brian Johnston, the Environmental Resources Supervisor on this project.

  1. What is your role on the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project?

My role is to ensure we are complying with all Tribal, Federal, State, and Local environmental regulations that are triggered by the project. To achieve that, I work with the design team, our Environmental Lead, and approximately nine different regulatory/resource agencies to attain permits for the project; then, ensure we are meeting all the conditions tied to the permits.

  1. How long have you worked on the project?

I have been working on this project ever since I started at the County nearly 14 years ago. At that time, we were in the early planning phases of the project, and I was tasked with finding ways to avoid wetlands. My first success involved working with the design team to relocate the future intersection of Canyon Road and Pioneer Way out of a coho rearing wetland to the currently proposed location.

  1. How did your career lead you to this role?

My career has been centered around providing the community need for transportation infrastructure in a way that meets the community value of a healthy environment. This project allows me to do both. We’re bringing a much-needed infrastructure project to the citizens of Pierce County, while also restoring natural ecosystem process to areas like Canyon Creek by providing water quality treatment, restoring wetlands, and correcting barriers to fish passage. I’m fortunate to have a career that supports the community I grew up in and have a family of my own.

  1. What has been your favorite aspect of this project so far and why?

The complexity. The project is located in a culturally sensitive area, involves the replacement of a historic bridge, is on top of an old lahar, crosses wetlands and three salmon bearing streams.   Nearly every environmental regulation I can think of is triggered by this project. This project will likely end up being the most complex project of my career.

  1. What have you learned through working on this project?

I learned that a diverse team that communicates well can solve very complicated challenges. Our design team consists of structural, civil and traffic engineers; right-of-way agents; biologists; public outreach specialists; and planners. Each of us has our own unique perspective and when we have the opportunity to provide input towards solving a challenge, we come up strong solutions.

  1. What, in your opinion, is the best kept secret of Pierce County?

Tacoma Narrows Park. It is a little park that I don’t think many know about. The Park has great beach access and overlooks the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The beach gets afternoon shade and is a great place to hang out and read a book when it is hot out. At low tide you can go for long walks along the beach and checkout what it looks like under the Narrows Bridge.

  1. What is your favorite place in Pierce County?

The segment of the Foothills Trail between the Town of South Prairie and Buckley. I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with the team that designed and built this section of trail that winds through a beautiful forest bisected by South Prairie Creek. In the fall you can watch hundreds of salmon making their way up South Prairie Creek from a gorgeous wooden arch bridge.

  1. What is your ideal weekend itinerary?

My ideal weekend would involve a trip up to Mt Rainier with my family. We’d find a place to camp, then spend a couple days touring around the mountain hitting our favorite day hikes. Our trip would conclude with a stop at the Copper Creek Restaurant for huckleberry pie!

  1. What do you like to do when you are not at work?

When not working I can be found running along the Cushman trail or in my garden. After working on a computer all day, I like to get outside for a run to clear my head and get some physical activity.

Join the 2022 blueberry harvest with Harvest Pierce County

Blueberry plant

The Canyon Road Regional Connection Project is investing more than $1.5 million in environmental mitigation which includes a plan to preserve, rehabilitate, and restore over 10 acres of wetland. An integral patch of that land is home to a former blueberry farm that we acquired as part of the development plans for the project.

And just like that, it’s blueberry harvesting time again! We’re partnering with Harvest Pierce County to harvest the blueberries that still remain on this patch of land. Last year, Harvest Pierce County volunteers harvested over 100 pounds of blueberries which were all donated to food banks in the area.

Interested in joining Harvest Pierce County? Then we have great news: they are looking for volunteers! Sign up and register here!

In the center of the blueberries runs Canyon Creek which is home to rich biodiversity and a historic run for spawning salmon. In the future, the project will restore Canyon Creek from its current ditch-like state to a natural, meandering channel designed to support fish. In-channel habitat structures, like root wads and logs, will be added to provide stream complexity and habitat for wildlife. The land surrounding the new stream will be restored to a forested wetland that will one day provide shade to Canyon Creek – supporting the long-term goal of restoring salmon habitat to the area.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about our environmental priorities or this harvesting opportunity. We hope to see you there!

You can register to volunteer with Harvest Pierce County here. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram to learn about next year’s gleaning opportunities.

River Crossing discussions at Meeker Days

The project team's booth set up at Meeker Days. There are two boards with various project information standing behind a table.

In June, our project team joined festival enthusiasts to kick-off summer at the annual Meeker Days celebration. The team set out to inform community members about a new bridge that’s being planned for this project over the Puyallup River, only three miles from downtown Puyallup. The more than 150 people who visited the booth were welcoming and curious; they asked lots of questions about pedestrian access, construction impacts, and offered suggestions for improvement. Many gave their thoughts and shared their excitement and approval of the project. Several visitors even drove past the site of the new bridge on their way into Meeker Days, and had lots to say about how much this work is needed, specifically to reduce the idling time on River Road and Levee Road that they were sitting in. 

Digital rendering of the future bridge over the Puyallup River.

The new bridge, pictured above, connects 70th Avenue East with Canyon Road East, crossing over Levee Road and River Road and stretches across the Puyallup river.

Our project team had an amazing time at this year’s Meeker Days celebration, and we are looking forward to meeting more members from the community! We can’t wait to see you all at Milton Days festivities at Milton Community Park on August 20th. Stop by to say hi and learn more about the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project!

Beaming into your neighborhood

We’ve enjoyed engaging in a variety of community outreach efforts regarding the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project over the years.

Our virtual meeting with residents of Radiance, Valley Haven, and Saddle Creek on March 30 was no exception!. These neighborhoods are situated very close to the planned bridge that will be constructed over the Puyallup River, connecting Canyon Road East to 70th Avenue East.

To inform our neighbors of the meeting, members of the project team used online channels, distributed flyers, and mailed a postcard to residents. Dozens attended the meeting over Zoom and heard from our project experts. We covered project features and topics related to traffic mitigation, regional growth, and environmental impacts.

For those of you who couldn’t make it or want to learn more, check out the full meeting summary on our website. You can also learn more at

If you live near the project area and are curious about bringing an event like this to your neighborhood, please get in touch! You can reach out to our project team at

All the Noise on Noise Walls

A section of the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project is getting a noise wall. Here’s what you need to know.

When the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project is complete, 70th Avenue East will continue across the Puyallup River to join Canyon Road East. Pierce County is also building a new road, 74th Avenue East, to connect North Levee Road East to 45th Street Court East, just to the east of 70th Avenue East.

Map of river crossing portion

As part of our planning for the future 74th Avenue East, we completed an environmental study of a variety of factors including expected noise levels. We found the new road will add enough noise near several homes within the Ardena Gale Mobile Home Park community to require that we consider adding a noise wall.

So, how did we get to that point?

When Pierce County is considering whether to include a noise wall or barrier in a project, we follow the steps in the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) noise walls and barriers guidelines, summarized here:

  • Step 1, Noise analysis: We engage acoustical specialists, or sound scientists, to measure and analyze the sources, levels, and patterns of existing noise at properties like parks, homes and neighborhoods near the project. This usually includes installing special microphones, called receivers, throughout the project area to measure noise, then developing a computerized noise model to predict how those existing noise levels could change with the new road.
  • Step 2, Determination of impact: According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, a project should consider a noise wall for properties where the expected noise from the new road is predicted to be 66 decibels (dBA) or more. At 66 dBA, two people standing three feet apart are likely to find they need to raise their voices to hear each other. The guidelines also ask us to consider a noise wall when the expected increase in noise level is 10 dBA or more. 10 dBA could be the difference between hearing a food blender while you are standing next to it or standing by the side of the road when a heavy truck goes by.

  • Step 3, Evaluate “feasibility” and “reasonableness”: Proposed noise walls must be both feasible and reasonable for construction. To be feasible, we must be able to build the noise wall using standard construction materials and techniques, while providing noise reduction of at least 5 dBA. To be reasonable, the noise wall must be cost effective to build. For example, if it would take a wall that is 30 feet high to reduce noise by 5 dBA for one house, it would be feasible (because it is possible to build a 30-foot wall) but not reasonable, because the cost of building a 30-foot wall to reduce the expected noise for one house is much more than the benefit it would provide.
  • Step 4, Property owner and resident input: Once we determine that a noise wall is feasible and reasonable, we leave the final decision to build a noise wall up to the community members who would be most impacted by the additional noise. This means asking those who live in and own the houses closest to where the wall would be built to vote on whether or not to build the wall.

In the case of the new 74th Avenue East, we met with the residents and property owners of the homes in Ardena Gale that would be most impacted by noise from the new road and gave them as much information as possible so they could make a decision about a noise wall. This included details about the new road, expected changes in traffic noise, what we think the wall would look like, how tall it would be, and how far it would be from their houses. In December, we polled them about their preference for a noise wall. In the end, the property owner and a majority of the affected residents said they would prefer to include the noise wall in the project.

If you have questions about this noise wall process, please email us at

Got a question? We’ve got your answer.

Multi-ethnic arms outstretched to ask questions.

The online open house for the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project wrapped up at the end of September. Thank you to everyone who shared their input through the site and on social media. We were blown away by the insightful responses.

We saw over 70 comments on our social media posts, had more than 3,000 visitors to our online open house, and welcomed 17 people to our virtual public meeting.

Since then, we’ve been working on getting you answers to the most commonly asked questions. We’ve put together this helpful FAQ sheet based on your collective questions, concerns, and suggestions. Take a look to see if your question has already been answered, or to learn about other aspects of the project!

We did our best to capture everything, but as this project develops, we know you may have new questions. If that happens, let us know! You can always reach us by email at

You can also follow us on Twitter or Facebook for future project updates.

On the road: An afternoon with Ardena Gale residents

During our community outreach through the Fall of 2021, several residents of the Ardena Gale Mobile Home Park asked how the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project would affect the people who live there, most of whom are seniors. So the project team hit the road to meet with Ardena Gale residents on a sunny Saturday in November.

The new bridge connecting to 70th Avenue East will affect the Ardena Gale entrance, and the new 74th Avenue East will border Ardena Gale when the project is complete.

Over four hours, approximately 40 residents stopped by our outdoor booth on the property to learn about the project and ask questions about the timeline, road changes, construction impacts, noise, and more.

This was the first time in nearly two years that the project team has held an in-person event and it was a beautiful day to be out in the community. Thank you to the Ardena Gale Mobile Home Park residents for being so welcoming!

If you would like to request a Canyon Road Regional Connection Project update for your neighborhood, please email us at



What’s your vision for active transportation?

Pierce County’s active transportation system serves pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and others who travel by human-powered means. These users need options to get around that are safe, connected, and easy to access.

Increasing our active transportation options and uses in Pierce County is good for the environment, makes our neighborhoods more livable and accessible, lowers our transportation costs, and decreases traffic.

The Canyon Road Regional Connection Project, for example, will add over seven miles of sidewalks and pathways and create more access points for people using active transportation. We’re also building a suspended shared-use pathway under the new Puyallup River bridge, which will replace the Milroy Bridge. The best part about this is that it’s totally separated from car and truck traffic for a much more comfortable ride. It also creates a new non-motorized connection between unincorporated Pierce County and the City of Fife.

Take our Active Transportation Survey!
We want to hear how you use active transportation to get around unincorporated Pierce County! Visit to take our survey in English, Spanish, Russian or Korean by Dec. 20. Your feedback will help us develop our Active Transportation Plan!



Blueberry harvest with Harvest Pierce County

In the spring of 2019, Pierce County acquired a 5.9-acre former blueberry farm as part of the Canyon Road Regional Connection Project. Eventually, we will restore the site to a more natural state as a wetland with a meandering stream. In the meantime though, we have been partnering with Harvest Pierce County to make sure the five types of delicious blueberries on the overgrown bushes do not go to waste!

Harvest Pierce County is an organization dedicated to growing, harvesting, and sharing the bounty of food grown in Pierce County. Every year they and their volunteers fan out to farms and backyards across Pierce County to glean or collect, unharvested fruits and vegetables to prevent food waste and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables to clients of food banks.

As we’ve done the past couple of years, we teamed up with Harvest Pierce County volunteers to glean blueberries on the property. This partnership has resulted in roughly 500 pounds of blueberries being harvested– between 100-150 pounds a season! All harvested blueberries are donated to local food banks in the area.

Interested in volunteering with Harvest Pierce County? Sign up and register here! You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram to learn about next year’s gleaning opportunities.

Share your thoughts on the River Crossing environmental study

In summer 2020, we asked you what we should study in our River Crossing environmental review, and then we got to work. Now we have early findings to share!

A quick refresher: these types of studies are required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to identify potential environmental and social impacts of the project and to think through how to reduce or offset these impacts prior to taking further action.

Work continues, but we wanted to check in with you along the way. You can review the early River Crossing environmental findings through an Online Open House through Sept. 24. We encourage you to share questions or comments on the findings in one of the following ways:

  • Comment online at
  • Email comments to
  • Mail comments to Canyon Road Regional Connection Project Environmental Review Comments, Pierce County Planning and Public Works, Attn: Environmental Resources, 2702 S 42nd St #109, Tacoma, WA 98409
  • Comment by phone at (253) 330-8831

We’re also hosting a virtual Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 7-8 p.m. to answer your questions about the River Crossing portion of the project. Register here today or by email to

Interested in scheduling a project briefing for your organization or community group? Send your request to