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Dear Yelm Community Blog Readers;

I have attended most Yelm Planning Commission & City Council meetings for the last three years, as any of the members of those sessions can attest. I have found some of the language, timing & logic of many of the things discussed under the auspices for the public good to be intimidating, at best.
I came from an eastern banking family and worked my way up in the management of a Fortune Top 50 company by the time I was 30. I received an undergraduate and graduate degree in business management, so I do have some education and experience.
I can see why the public does not attend many of the city’s sessions;
A. they think their voice will not be heard or their situation understood unless they are a developer waving $$$ – why bother.
B. The lingo is just too daunting to learn to understand to get across to officials.

I can assure you such was the case for me, a somewhat educated man.
For the last three years, I have attended, listened, commented, & learned all I could about this city’s policy at meetings. While my timing has sometimes been off and I am labeled a nuisance, bothersome, a pain and complainer by some amongst city officials, I can assure you that learning all I can to benefit the public has been my main goal.

The city’s Transportation Plan dictates policy for our roads and one of the policies is that the city accepts the failure of our main roads to handle the traffic. All of the community finds the traffic here and those city policies about our roads to be an abomination, however only Professional Engineer Ed Wiltsie and myself gave official testimony about the Yelm Comprehensive Plan Updates to the Planning Commission tonight.

This Plan states that levels of service for Yelm’s roads and facilities and services reflect the preference of the community. However, if the community does not speak up to the very people elected to create the policy as to what they want, then the community deserves gridlock.

How do you feel that the city accepts failed roads as official city policy?

You have until September 4th to get written documents to City Hall on this subject.

While some of this may be difficult to understand, I list my public comments in the open here for all to review:

Testimony to Yelm Planning Commission on the Comprehensive Plan Update
Monday, August 20, 2007.

My name is Steve Klein,
I reside at … outside of Yelm City Limits & I am a taxpayer inside city limits as a property owner ….

According to the opening of the Comprehensive Plan Chapter on
A. Objective of Transportation Planning
The objective of Transportation Planning is to provide a cost-effective network to
accommodate all modes of travel in and around the core area. To accomplish this
objective, Yelm will actively pursue:
1. A connected-streets policy to promote the efficient flow of traffic, and travel by all
modes within the community.
2. A series of connected arterials which will permit traffic to bypass the urban core if
it is merely passing through, to reduce congestion in the central core.

Do we have a cost-effective network now?
Hardly, as the city is in gridlock most afternoons and weekends, pollution spewing forth as vehicles idle for a mile or more and public safety compromised daily. And, unsafe conditions have developed on numerous side streets as vehicles attempt alternate movement around congestion, streets ill-equipped to handle the load and streets where our citys children play.

How is the objective of transportation planning a cost effective network?

Continuing: The analysis of any given proposal should consider all modes of transportation and all methods of efficiently managing the transportation system. The decision-making process should include the public and all affected units of government.

Has that been done? I have seen no meeting that included the public and all affected units of government together. Rep. Tom Campbell said in his last Town Hall meeting in Yelm he would work to get just such a meeting here this Fall. That is the first from any official!

Policy 1.3. Regional Transportation Policy:
The City will coordinate with other jurisdictions improving regional connections to Yelm prior to permitting future development. These methods may include identifying any physical, Transportation System Management (TSM), or Transportation Demand Management (TDM) improvements to mitigate potential deficiencies, and financial responsibilities for implementation.

Isn’t LOS (Level of Service) F a deficiency?
For almost 3 years, I have called for coordination between the State, County, City & public for all of the jurisdictions to come together to mitigate potential deficiencies, and financial responsibilities for implementation of improvements to the Yelm Ave. corridor conditions, and that includes coordination PRIOR to permitting any more development here. The Mayor said at the July 24th STIP Hearing 67% of Yelm traffic originates outside of the city and cast it away to the County, while Council member Don Miller stated Yelm Ave. is comprised of 2 State highways and the city must surrender to the WSDOT, while the bypass is always pointed to as THE answer. Enough of such folly!
[The Mayor suggested the public contact our State Reps. about Yelm’s traffic. I did!
Wal-Mart is on a state highway and the city approved that with no problem.]

Policy 2.1. Road Adequacy Policy (Level of Service Standard) states
To adopt levels of service for roads and facilities and services that reflects the preference of the community.

Has that truly been done? Time and time again, Ed Wiltsie, Bill Hashim, myself and a whole host of others have stood before this Commission, City Council and Mayor stating that the Transportation Chapter is woefully inadequate. Every time the community is polled on the #1 issue here, traffic is always at the top and all of you know that. When IS the preference of the community going to be followed by the Planning Commission?

Continuing Policy 2.1. Road Adequacy Policy (Level of Service Standard)
For concurrency purposes, the following standards shall apply in the Urban Growth Area:
3. In the urban core LOS F is recognized as an acceptable level of service where mitigation to create traffic diversions, bypasses, and alternate routes and modes of transportation are authorized and being planned, funded, and implemented, and can result in improved LOS.

This is so nebulous, very inconclusive and lacks definitive, measurable commitment to action. This needs to be rewritten to something like this:
In the urban core, LOS D is recognized as an acceptable level of service where mitigation to create traffic diversions, bypasses, and alternate routes and modes of transportation are authorized, have been planned, 100% funded & known to be able to complete the implementation of that road, and can result in improved LOS.

The statement the way you have written means you are working on it – however you have been working on it since 1992, while allowing multi-thousand vehicle trips per day to be added from approved developments, plus all of the vehicular traffic at Wal-Mart.

The public testimony of Professional Engineer Ed Wiltsie to the City Council on Oct. 24, 2006 stated that since 1992, major intersections of Yelm Ave. have been graded LOS F, the lowest grade possible. There is no lower threshold and no method for measuring or establishing how far below LOS F the system can go. Considering the full scenario in Yelm, LOS F means the road conditions need to be immediately improved because of safety issues. Development adding to an LOS F road needs to be kept to a minimum until the road is improved to a higher threshold.

Mr. Wiltsie added 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 said that when and if the bypass is open in approximately 2015, almost 25 years will have passed with Yelm Ave. intersections graded LOS F (1992-2015). Therefore, this is not a temporary condition, since this road has had grades of LOS F since 1992. Why is such a condition been deemed acceptable by you & this Plan?

The Mayor said he would not listen to LOS during the STIP Hearing on July 24, 2007.
City Development Director Grant Beck said at that meeting that public safety has nothing to do with LOS. I differ with him and say public safety IS a part of the citys responsibility in accepting LOS F as official policy.

At the opening of the Staff Report July 24th City Council meeting, Mr. Beck told the Council that the Hearing Examiner of July 23rd commenting on Tahoma Terra, instructed him that the citys method of separating the phases of Tahoma Terra when determining LOS on Longmire St. was improper. When the phases were thus added together as required, Longmire was now an LOS F road, Mr. Beck said. So now, newly expanded Longmire is already an LOS F road that feeds onto LOS F Yelm Ave. W. Interesting, there was not one question or comment from the Council about that subject. What other roads is such the case and no one knows, except perhaps Mr. Beck.

An LOS F does not even meet the objective of Transportation Planning!
Therefore, I do not accept LOS F in the urban core as an acceptable level and as policy.

Policy 2.6. Transportation System Management (TSM) Policy
To efficiently operate the transportation system through TSM strategies
Using signal coordination, turn lanes & access control for arterials…”
Why is there no mention of traffic circles?
Why can Olympia & Lacey effectively use those to keep traffic moving and they are not even on Yelms radar screen.
There are too many ways to remediate an LOS F condition such as with traffic circles, to making Washington St a through one-way eastbound street from Longmire through the Yelm-Tenino Trail to Third street, and biting the bullet to eliminate parking on the street between 1st & 3rd, where those affected businesses would use their rear parking for access, make three lanes in each direction to improve flow at the light [507/510], just to name a few.

Policy 3.1. Environmental Protection and Conservation Policy, 3.1 Goal states:
A transportation system with minimal environmental impact and energy consumption that provides for a high quality of life to be enjoyed by the citizens.

How is burning fuel in gridlock consistent with this policy?
Our transportation system providing a high quality of life to be enjoyed by our citizens?
You must be kidding?! Our citizens and those surrounding Yelm think of ways to avoid Yelm in peak hours and weekends, which ends up hurting our local merchants’ bottom line.

Policy 3.1. Environmental Protection and Conservation Policy
The City of Yelm will fulfill this need by:
To design transportation facilities within Yelm and the Yelm Urban Growth Area
that minimize adverse environmental impacts resulting from both their
construction and operation. The City of Yelm will fulfill this need by:
Soliciting and incorporating the concerns and comments of interested parties.

Since when has anything done on our major corridors minimized adverse environmental impacts except planting a few trees and adding curbs and sidewalks? And when has soliciting and incorporating the concerns and comments of interested parties been a priority? That has mostly been given lip service. Adding more developments to an already choked corridor has not been of benefit. What is the framework for the city committing to this? Accepting a policy of LOS F with pollution from gridlock is anathema to this Environmental Protection and Conservation Policy.

Policy 3.2. Compatibility with Adjacent Land Use Policy
To ensure that transportation system improvements are compatible with adjacent
land uses and to minimize potential conflicts.

Land use issues here drive transportation rather than the other way around. Change that.

Policy 3.3. Economic and Development Policy
To develop a transportation system that is compatible with the economic and
development goals of the City of Yelm.
The transportation system will allow for and promote the ongoing economic development and current land use goal of the Yelm Urban Growth Area. The system will be designed to provide ready access to all industrial and commercial areas of the City.

Development is driving transportation here. This needs to be tightened up in this Plan.
The potential for economic development here is severely impacted with the citys main arteries in gridlock with little movement at times. Who wants to locate an industrial site here when entrance/egress to town is so negatively affected on our main arteries?

And, the traffic mentioned in the STIP should not outgrow the STIP.
Development should therefore cease.
I call for a new standard for all new development.

To address Mr. Perezs comment recently, What do we do, stop all growth?
Well, Mr. Perez, frankly YES; to stop any more developmental approval until the traffic infrastructure here is brought into balance with already approved developments.

This is the time and place to determine city policy and we, the citizens of this community want to change the policy as we no longer accept the LOS F as acceptable in the urban core. Why is the city choosing to be different than what the community wants?
If you can’t address these points, I suggest this be tabled until these can be addressed.

While these are but a few of the issues I saw in this document, I demand the Yelm Planning Commission keep this open for more input and beyond the September 4, 2007 deadline for written comments. The City of Yelm is in a transportation crisis. This is a plea for different thinking.

Posted by Steve on August 20, 2007 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

Post a comment


  1. Right On… I’ll ask tomorrow if this is the only chance for public comment and there must be a schedule of future meetings.

    Comment by Gail Cane on August 21, 2007 at 8:37 pm

  2. i didn’t get to read this artile from head to toe but i can tell that it is about the yelm traffic issues. i just wanted to note that since being here in yelm (the whole 2 weeks) we have tried to walk as many places as possible but the fumes from all the cars on yelm’s main street is so bad that you can’t walk it most of the time w/o feeling like you are going to loose a lung. i had flash backs of being in mexico breathing the dirty air from too many vehicles. i agree that something needs to be done.

    [Mrs Miller and her family just moved to Yelm from Oklahoma.]

    Comment by Megan Miller on August 21, 2007 at 9:02 pm

  3. I live on the corner of Washington St and Railroad (the zig-zag intersection by city hall). The side roads surrounding my apartment complex (for seniors and disabled) are used by cars trying to avoid gridlock on Yelm Ave. 18 wheel truckers jocky their rigs daily around corners on these narrow side streets getting to and from Harding Greens. Residents in the neighborhood have little choice but to endure the noise of idling truck engines and AC compressors on the commercial trucks. Exhaust fumes fill the air during the gridlock everyday. Drivers cruise by with their “boom” cars blasting the air into waves of concussion that rattles our homes and our nerves. Cars speed along these side streets and cut corners.

    Washington St has heavy pedestrian traffic of all ages and physical condition. We have many residents in the neighborhood in wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Mothers with babies in strollers walk these streets daily. Teenagers hangout at the trailhead (and leave behind litter).

    I contacted the city about the traffic and danger to pedestrians. Yesterday a new stop sign went up on the corner of Washington and Railroad (at the zig-zag intersection). That’s a start, but I do not feel it is the solution. I’ve already witnessed nearly every car simply slow down without coming to a complete stop. I think speed bumps would be more effective but was told the city has a policy not to use speed bumps in the city. One stop sign is not enough. I feel a 3-way stop is a better answer.

    Comment by Karen Kangas on August 30, 2007 at 9:26 am

  4. You wrote on the blog site:

    “There are too many ways to remediate an LOS F condition such as with traffic circles, to making Washington St a through one-way eastbound street from Longmire through the Yelm-Tenino Trail to Third street, and biting the bullet to eliminate parking on the street between 1st & 3rd, where those affected businesses would use their rear parking for access, make three lanes in each direction to improve flow at the light [507/510], just to name a few.”

    I am certain many drivers would agree there needs to be an alternate route to avoid the gridlock. However, I see a problem that would prevent your suggested plan to improve traffice flow. Your plan would not be feasible because it would mean 2 traffic lights within a one block radius…the existing one at the 507/510 intersection and another a block away on the proposed route using Washington St.

    I suggest another route that would place signal lights at reasonable distances. From Longmire connect to Mosman Ave with a two lane one-way street (accessed via traffic circle at Longmire and Mosman), at Mosman and Solberg St either another traffic circle or traffic light with 3 lanes on Mosman (2 lanes leading to 507), at Mosman and 507 have traffic light with left turn only lane to access Mosman after crossing 507, make Mosman 2 lanes one-way to 3rd (and possibly 4th by extending Mosman).

    The intersection at Mosman and 507 already experiences heavy traffic from drivers using alternate routes to avoid the gridlock on Yelm Hwy.

    Karen Kangas

    Comment by Karen Kangas on September 3, 2007 at 9:07 pm

  5. This would be a great alternative if the city ever moved Mosman to intersect at 1st St. (507).

    Bottom line, there are ways around this mess that a “NO” answer no longer suffices.
    And, with your suggestion and mine, there are already 2 excellent inputs from citizens.

    Steve Klein

    Comment by Steve Klein on September 3, 2007 at 9:09 pm

  6. I agree with you, there is no excuse for not taking action to fix the mess. I believe it is the number one issue citizens would like to see fixed.


    Comment by Karen Kangas on September 3, 2007 at 9:10 pm

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