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This writer has missed very few City Council meetings in the last three years and has rarely seen Council Chambers standing room only or public comments lasting an hour. Most Council sessions are concluded in under 25 minutes. Get traffic on the docket and citizens turned out in force.
Mayor Harding obviously read this blog [see July 19th entry] and announced that Level of Service (LOS) was not pertinent to the Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) saying that LOS had nothing to do with the STIP.
As mentioned by this writer on the record, it has to do with pubic safety on city streets, which needs to be considered in road projects here.

My letter to our State & County officials sums up the evening quite well:

Dear Senator Rasmussen, Rep. McCune,
Rep. Campbell & County Commissioner Oberquell,

Last night was the Yelm Public Hearing on the city’s 6 year Transportation Plan (STIP). Council Chambers were packed with a “standing room only” crowd & citizens commenting on various issues about Yelm’s traffic & road
conditions, with the hearing lasting for 1 hour & 4 minutes.

Many of the comments were about the many Level of Service (LOS) D + F intersections along the Yelm Ave. corridor that affect public safety. Pointed out was the fact that the City of Yelm has accepted LOS F conditions along this road since 1992, an LOS that was supposed to be temporary until fixed, unless something was being done to mitigate the situation. That mitigation has always been the bypass, which we all know is not totally funded and if so, will not begin construction until 2013 and opening in 2015, almost 25 years with LOS F conditions. Also mentioned were that developments adding to an LOS F road need to be kept to a minimum until the road is brought to a higher threshold. As we all know, such is not the case what with Tahoma Terra and so many other approved developments in Yelm alone. While many new road projects have added to Yelm overall, the main corridor is backed up to the Red Wind Casino on Thursday & Friday afternoons, and is nearing a gridlocked condition, which will eventually stifle growth in the area of the county.

Why even Community Development Director Beck stated last night to the Council in his Staff Report that the Hearing Examiner here for four hearings on developments Monday showed that traffic figures should be combined from new developments back in the Tahoma Terra area and when doing so, Longmire St. accessing Tahoma Terra then failed; the City had separated the traffic numbers, lessening the impact on paper. Not one question was raised about that from Council. And a failed Longmire feeds onto Yelm Ave. West! How long is this city going to keep adding failed roads to an LOS F SR 510 in city limits?

Mayor Harding stated to the audience,
“You need to be a voice and contact your State representatives. We have ongoing meetings with State officials and are very active.”
He further stated that 67% of the traffic on Yelm Ave. is from outside the City limits and originates in Thurston & Pierce Counties. He said we need to contact our County Commissioner.

Mayor Pro-Tem Isom added,
“It’s (the Yelm Ave. road conditions) a State problem. Put pressure on your State Representatives.”

Further, Council member Don Miller asked Community Development Director Grant Beck if the state controls the road, with Mr. Beck answering the city has to get permission from the State to do anything on Yelm Ave. (SR 510 & 507). Mr. Beck further stated that while that is the case, the city asked and approved a LID on a portion of that road. Mr. Miller re-emphasized that it’s still a State Highway that the State controls. In my view, using this as an excuse is absurd. The City can do almost anything they want on that road, if they consult the State.
[Mr. Miller, the city sure got a Wal-Mart entrance/egress approved quite easily on a state highway within city limits. HMMM!]

Additionally, a lady asked why Yelm even bothered having a Public Hearing, since the vote was scheduled right after the hearing. No discussion amongst the members was even scheduled or raised about all of the public comments. She suggested the decision was already made and asked Council to wait at least until the next meeting and discuss what the public said at the Study Session. I suggested tabling the STIP until further review could occur. Bottom line, the Public Hearing seemed just for show. The vote went on unanimously to approve the STIP, slam dunk.

For over three years, I have attended almost every Yelm Planning Commission Meeting & City Council meeting, as anyone there can attest. I have repeatedly spoken out on the record about traffic here, including my statements last night about deteriorating public safety along Yelms main corridor, requesting a further look at the STIP to work with State & County officials to get funding for improvements. I have spoken to Reps. McCune & Campbell in their Town Hall Meetings here about this issue.

I am writing asking for help:
City officials say to pressure you.
OK, here I am.
Or, is this issue just another toss of the football amongst our jurisdictions elected officials, while Yelm is choking in unbridled growth & traffic?

Most sincerely,

Stephen R. Klein

cc: Mayor Ron Harding

So, expect more of the same:
gridlock, safety compromises, & loss of revenue to local businesses in the “downtown core” as citizens avoid the traffic here, which was mentioned by one lady. This writer is so surprised local businesses do not go on-record to the Council about the loss of revenue because of the traffic here.

And, stay tuned for more traffic woes to come, as highlighted by the front-page headline article in the NVN out today:
“Yelm Wal-Mart busier than expected.”

And, nary a word was mentioned in the city’s newspaper of choice for public listings, the Nisqually Valley News about the largest attendance for a Council public hearing in years and the length of said meeting. The NVN had a reporter there, too.
Wazzup with that?
Why was that not considered a newsworthy item to report?

What say you?

Posted by Steve on July 26, 2007 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

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  1. I live in Rainier Apts one block south of Yelm Hwy. My patio faces the corner of Railroad Ave and Washington St. Everyday I witness drivers using these side streets to avoid traffic congestion on Yelm Hwy. The poorly planned “zig-zag” corner is a traffic nightmare with a lot of pedestrians. The entrance to the bike path is on that corner. So is city hall and the mayor’s residence. The apartment complex I live in
    is for seniors and disabled residents on low income. Our tenants do drive and walk along these streets with cars speeding past them. There are a lot of kids walking and riding bikes on these streets. I witnessed one hit and run accident (no other vehicle or person involved) that destroyed city property. This incident was also witnessed by Mayor Harding and his wife. I have seen many near misses. It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed here. I contacted the city to see if they could put speed bumps on these side streets and was told the city has a policy that says no speed bumps in city limits. Then why is there a speed bump directly in front of Harding Greens warehouse on Railroad? The city response to date was to set up a large sign on the side of Edwards St in front of our apts to show the speed limit and how fast cars are going. That sign was supposed to be set up on Railroad too, but I have
    yet to see it. The police department called me to say they would try to put a stop sign on Washington St and Railroad where the zig-zag is. That will NOT stop the speeding and wreckless driving through the zig-zag area. That is the area closest to the city hall and the trail entrance. There is a 15 mph speed limit sign on Washington St just before entering the zig-zag. That sign does nothing to slow down the speeding cars and motorcycles. Harding and everyone working at City Hall is very much aware of the traffic here yet nothing is done to improve the safety of drivers or pedestrians. A permanent solution is needed and that likely entails redesigning the zig-zag to a safe intersection. I’m not sure that the Hardings would be happy to see that happen considering they use that area to park their cars and trucks. Sometimes there are trucks parked there that obstruct vision for drivers. I saw a boy on a bike almost get hit by an SUV one day and I feel a major reason was because trucks parked at Harding’s obstructed the driver’s view so that he did not see the boy until he was right on top of him. It’s just a matter of time before someone is not as lucky as that young boy. I fear for that day!

    Comment by Karen Kangas on July 28, 2007 at 3:14 pm

  2. July 30, 2007

    Dear Representative Campbell, Representative McCune,
    Senator Rasmussen and County Commissioner Oberquell,

    On Tuesday, July 25, 2007, the Yelm City Council held a public hearing on the Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). I wrote a letter and sent it by email to add to the public comments pile, preferring to stay in my pjs rather than attend another meeting where the outcome will be the expected.

    Almost 20 years ago I moved to Yelm. I remember standing in City Hall looking at a map of the city and in particular the routes of the two proposed bypasses. Today, only one bypass is being discussed. It has been kept alive on paper until last year when a down payment was made by the State and Federal governments. It is not scheduled for construction, should all funding be available, until 2013 and completed by 2015.

    Loss of Service (LOS) of D and F have been on the books since 1992 and now consume more intersections due to traffic volume. Very little of this is due to growth from families who live outside the city on acreage, who call Yelm home. The truth is this Yelm City Council hasnt met a development they didnt like. This includes groupings of 6-10 homes, 93 homes and now Wal-Mart with their 8,000 cars and a proposed 5,000 homes on the horizon. The Community Development Department paid for a study that determined that many, many more retailers could come to the city and settle successfully. To quote John Steinbeck, Why does progress look so much like destruction?

    A traffic expert, who represented the Yelm Commerce Group during the Hearings to determine whether Wal-Mart should receive approved to build in Yelm, testified about the roads. He experienced the present traffic situation and was informed of the proposed local remedies as well as the future of a bypass. He said that with no viable remedy on the main streets, traffic spills over onto side streets. This always results in accidents because the cars, in frustration, travel too fast and the residents are vulnerable because they are not conditioned to live with this burden. The congested streets now stifled regularly with hours of gridlock pose a safety hazard.

    – 1
    The city and its traffic experts came up with a temporary solution on the main drag. It was treason in my opinion, that the city imposed thousands and thousands of dollars on those who own property surrounding the new Killion circle. This tab should have wholly been picked up by the developers and a thoughtful, long term plan executed.

    In the Nisqually Valley News, July 27th, Mayor Ron Harding in his column, City Talk, discusses dealing with the stresses of traffic. He recommends trying to leave home a few minutes earlier and letting a car or two in along the way. I commute to Tumwater and have to leave at least one hour and forty-five minutes ahead of my varying scheduled start time because of Yelms traffic. How early would I have to leave if my start time had to include school/commuter times? This advice is from a man who lives and works on the same piece of city property!

    So, the council is seeing the bypass as the great redeemer of all transportation/development issues? What role does concurrency play? Why is the council allowed to plan for growth that includes a bypass that is not fully financed? No business or household plans for the future like the council has been allowed to do with the city of Yelm.

    I was told that Ron Harding encouraged the audience at the meeting to contact our representatives. I have. Secretary of Transportation Doug MacDonald called Yelms traffic, a nightmare. From speaking to three of you in your town meetings, I know you are keenly aware of the mess on our roads. Can we get a meeting underway as Rep. Campbell suggested at his Town Meeting with all of us, including Thera Black of the Thurston County Planning Commission? Can we get a clear definition of concurrency based on a hearing in Olympia where it was defined by an Examiner so we can get the council to make decisions based on real policy and not pie-in-the-sky?

    Every campaign I have ever observed calls for change. The drivers on the roads in Yelm have lived since 1992 with LOS F. Why has the council been allowed, even with being voted in, to put our well-being in jeopardy with their poor decisions? Standing traffic causing pollution; businesses losing customers because interest in driving to shops and restaurants is difficult; commuters who wait in bumper to bumper traffic for sometimes 45 minutes; families who have to spend more time on the road to simply get around and safety issues are all contributing to a loss in the quality of life we should be living in Yelm.

    Thank you,

    Jean Handley

    – 2 –

    Comment by Jean Handley on August 1, 2007 at 2:22 pm

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