Road signs at Yelm intersection of SR 507 & 510
Photo courtesy of Yelm-based photographer Guustaaf Damave
No issue has area residents, businesses, shoppers and visitors more galvanized than the Yelm traffic.
Even with the addition of city road projects, most are cosmetic at best helping with flow, yet, do little to tackle this mess.
This writer and others have gone on-record with the Yelm Planning Commission and City Council several times baout this issue alone.
Now, the Yelm Comprehensive Plan will be updated this year and the first step in that process is a draft from the Planning Commission, which they will begin on May 21. The public can attend the session at 4pm.
Once that is completed and an anaysis released, there will be an Open House for public comment.
What I have witnessed is that by the time of the Open House, the Planning Dept. and City Administrators have locked-in their views and strongly provide those as the basis for decisions to the Planning Commission & City Council. The Open House then becomes nothing more than a routine drill and the projects are “rubber stamped” by the officials elected to represent our interests – the property owners and residents of this town.
We all have witnessed this time and again. The 2006 Jefferson Muzzle award to the Yelm City Council highlighted
this as truth, with many of those on the Council then, still sitting there today.
With that in mind, doesn’t this require your education and participation now?
The following from this Blog of October 24, 2006 will educate you about the transportation issues the Planning Commission MUST consider:
Ed Wiltsie was the only speaker to make a public comment at the Oct. 24 City Council meeting regarding Ordinance 858 amending the Yelm Comprehensive Plan. He spoke brilliantly about traffic and water issues.
Regarding traffic, the points he made are as follows:
A. The major thoroughfares through town (SR 507 to the east & SR 510 to the west) carry
school traffic, emergency responders to medical treatment in Olympia and serves as the
only alternate route around I-5 closures between Tacoma & Olympia.
B. Since 1992, major intersections of this road have been graded level of service (LOS) F,
the lowest grade possible. There is no lower threshold and there is not a method for measuring or establishing how far below the LOS F threshold the system can go. Considering the full scenario in Yelm, a LOS F means the road conditions need to be immediately improved because of safety issues while development adding to a LOS F road needs to be kept to a minimum until the road is improved to a higher threshold.
C. Yelm has laudably performed all of the improvements that are possible along the Commercial Corridor, Yelm Avenue, which partially offsets the impact of modest development. However, the recent approval of mega developments (i.e. Wal-Mart, Tahoma Terra) and consideration of Thurston Highlands (which has been noted as one of the largest residential development projects in the United States) does not seem to be consistent with the intent of the concession granted by the language in the Comprehensive Plan. This size of development will lead to unsafe conditions on Yelm Avenue and the numerous side streets that will experience more and more bypass traffic as congestion increases.
D. Mr. Wiltsie was asked if the City Council should shut off development. He said no because funding to support the construction of traffic improvements is derived from such development. Mr. Wiltsie did suggest the city council should not be considering mega-developments (i.e. Thurston Highlands) until the Y3 Loop is in place, as it will add too much additional traffic, creating a more dangerous situation and more safety issues. The city at this point needs to look to improving SR 507 & 510 conditions or reconsider approving further development until such time that SR 507 & 510’s LOS F is improved.
The implication was clear in this listener’s mind: the City of Yelm is going to be liable in lawsuits from traffic deaths because of its acceptance of LOS F intersections all-the-while adding development and worsening the conditions for 15 years. HOW LOW CAN LOS F CONDITIONS GO?
E. Mr. Wiltsie stated that a city can temporarily approve development with a major road graded LOS F as long as there is some remediation to improve that LOS F roadway, such as a bypass. He stated that when (and if) the bypass is open approximately 2015, almost 25 years will have passed with SR 507 & SR 510 being graded LOS F (1992-2015). Mr. Wiltsie said that means this is not a temporary condition, since this road has been graded LOS F since 1992 and the City Council & Planning Commission have deemed this LOS F acceptable.
F. Even the city’s own Development Director, Grant Beck stated in his staff report:
“The City Council should carefully consider the points raised by Mr. Wiltsie in which he indicates that the establishment of a level of service F in the downtown core is not being used as intended by the 2001 Comprehensive Transportation Plan as adopted by the Yelm Planning Commission and the Yelm City Council, as the intention of the City Council is ultimately determined by the City Council. If the Council’s intention is correctly expressed by Mr. Wiltsie’s comments, it should clarify that for the record.”
The City approved the Comprehensive Plan revisions unanimously anywayOctober 24, even with all of the questions of Mr. Wiltsie added to Mr. Beck’s suggestion to consider Mr. Wiltsie’s comments. While the respect and admiration was noted from the City Council towards Mr. Wiltsie and his report, not one member of the City Council raised their hand to say they would like to table the adoption of Ordinance 858 amending the Yelm Comprehensive Plan and do further research regarding Mr. Wiltsie’s comments.
The citizens of Yelm owe Ed a great deal of thanks for his constant efforts on their behalf at bridging these understandings for the Planning Commission and City Council.
WILL THE PLANNING COMMISSION AND CITY COUNCIL CONSIDER AND INVESTIGATE THESE ISSUES IN 2007?
It’s up to the public to ask their elected officials to do so!
What say you?