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This writer has previously mentioned several times the precipice of traffic gridlock on which Yelm is approaching fast.
Nowhere was that more aptly exhibited than at 1:30pm and into the evening on Tuesday, August 8th in Yelm when all northbound lanes of I-5 were closed at the Nisqually River Bridge due to an accident. With the subsequent long wait times on the freeway 16 miles to the west of town, vehicles diverted on Wa. Hwy 510 though Yelm and north to Roy and Tacoma. Traffic movement took a half hour just to go from 89th Ave. to the town’s main traffic light, less than two miles. Emergency vehicles were delayed in their responses due to the almost gridlocked conditions.
I am on City Council records several times this year saying there needs to be a capacity increase to carry traffic on Yelm’s main artery. When I asked the Nisqually Valley News why they omitted from their story my on-record comments to the City Council during the LID Hearing about this issue, I was told by the reporter that this angle has been covered previously and space limitations warranted omission.
I say this issue has not been covered enough and needs to be raised continually as this town enters a traffic quagmire.
Let’s ask some questions. What do YOU think?

1. Turn lanes add just a little capability for a road to carry more traffic and mostly assist with flow by removing turning traffic from through lanes.
Will a LID-sponsored center turn lane improvement to Yelm Ave. West alleviate the daily traffic backups, backups continuing even with school on Summer recess?
Will a center turn lane add capacity to carry more vehicles in and out of town?

2. With no additional lanes of traffic in or out of Yelm now planned, how will this town handle any additional traffic capacity (lanes of through traffic) now and in the immediate future?

3. A bypass is 10 years away according to the DOT website. With no bypass for a decade, what do we do to alleviate the current and worsening conditions prior to 2015?.

4. Wal-Mart and Tahoma Terra will be adding thousands of cars daily to city streets within the next year.
How do you think the city’s traffic flow will be a year from now?

5. Even with a current center turn lane on Yelm Ave. East, traffic was at a crawl there yesterday because the vehicles were mostly through traffic going north. Only assisting with flow, can you see that a center turn lane on the East side did nothing to provide capacity yesterday, as will be the case on the West side?

6. Isn’t the city being a bit short-sighted in not planning for the huge traffic increases in the next one to ten years and planning for a 5-lane Yelm Ave. West now, instead of just a three lane Yelm Ave. West? Won’t we be coming back and asking property owners along Yelm Ave. West for more of their land as the town must widen the artery to 5 lanes within a few years?

7. Local Yelm businesses suffer as patrons find even driving a few blocks difficult here, delaying their shopping or taking their business elsewhere on back roads? You would think the Yelm Chamber of Commerce and Yelm Economic Development Committee would be aggressively touting this issue on behalf of local businesses, who work hard and provide tax revenue to the city. With gridlock affecting sales and tax revenue to the city, why do we hear little or nothing publicly stated by these groups about this issue? (i.e. this writer was to go shopping in McKenna yesterday and did not.)

8. How about considering many ideas previously suggested, like a simple reliever to Yelm Ave. West by making Washington Ave. a through street from behind McDonald’s through 1st St. (507) to 3rd St.?

9. What would the traffic situation at 2:30pm yesterday been like if Yelm High School was in session and their vehicles were added to the gridlock? Add that to Wal-Mart & Tahoma Terra traffic and what does that look like?

10. Diversions from I-5 through Yelm are not uncommon, occurring with increasing frequency. How would you have liked to have driven from Southworth Elementary School to downtown Yelm in over an hour, as yesterday?
And what about our children on school buses in that gridlock were school in session?

11. And then to top it all off, the Washington State Patrol was out in an unmarked car giving speeding infractions along Bald Hill Rd. between 5 Corners & 4 Corners. Couldn’t they have assisted moving traffic better through the Wa. State Hwy 507 and Vail Rd. intersections and across county lines into McKenna instead?

12. With gas predicted to be $4 a gallon here soon because of the Alaska pipeline shutdown, how would you have liked to have burned all of that fuel waiting in gridlocked traffic for an hour yesterday in your hometown?

Won’t you speak up to your elected officials and city planners?
Your voice needs to be heard!

Posted by Steve on August 9, 2006 at 3:03 am | Permalink

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  1. You are so right about this traffic matter. I am not a citizen of Yelm, yet. Although I attended the recent Assay at Ramtha’s school, and I, during my brief encounters of driving through town, was in the midst of the traffic at a standstill on that main road. As you stated, with the Wal-Mart opening up, it is just going to get worse. I think it’s wonderful that you list things to do about it. Thank you.
    (And this is a great blog, thanks for it!)

    Comment by Melissa Graham on August 13, 2006 at 1:59 pm

  2. Yelm is growing at a rapid pace. New housing developments and Walmart will add to the traffic nightmare we now face. That we can all agree on.

    One factor I have not seen addressed is how the heavy volume of traffic affects our quality of life. The noise from the traffic reduces the quality of life and adversely affects health whether or not one is “used to it” or not. Noise causes involuntary physical reactions such as dialation of pupils and raised blood pressure. For many with high blood pressure or heart problems, traffic noise and other environmental noises can be dangerous and deadly. The stress resulting from environmental noise can produce angry individuals that often result in acts of violence. Noise impacts the learning abilities of our children in schools.

    We all have low tolerances for certain noises. It may be a baby crying, a dog barking, sirens, loud vehicles, lawn equipment, loud music (bass that emits strong air vibrations in particular), air conditioners, etc.
    Ask yourself how much is to much and consider how it may be affecting your quality of life. Yes, some things are necessary but so is consideration and respect for our neighbors. If you run noisy power equipment that can be repaired or replaced to eliminate excessive noise then do so. That’s being a good neighbor/citizen. If you enjoy loud music consider that others may find it annoying and turn it down. If your vehicle/motorcycle is loud then get it repaired/equiped to run quietly (yes, the means to do so has been available for many years).

    Yelm used to be a quiet little town, but for many residents it is fast becoming an unsafe and unhealthy environment. Growth means change. How we manage that growth determines what our quality of life will be. Will we be considerate of the right to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes and community, or will we degrade our quality of life by ignoring the elements that produce negative impacts upon our lives? Will our city officials listen to us and act in the best interests of the people or will they act in the best interests of whatever profits them and their cronies? Do we have unbiased enforcement of our laws and regulations or do we get ignored or harassed when we speak up?

    It’s about quality of life! It’s about working together to build a safe peaceful environment… to respect the rights of others.

    Comment by Karen Kangas on August 27, 2006 at 10:30 am

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