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* City’s reorganization brings fresh mindset – finally!
* Yelm seeks upgrade funding for Loop’s connecting streets,
* A historical perspective.

SR 510 Yelm Loop Stage 1 opens to traffic | Mayor of Yelm, R… | Flickr
Mayor Ron Harding is the first driver on Yelm Loop’s stage 1.
October 21, 2010
Credit: flickr.com

The City of Yelm has a new leader of planning in Cody Colt

With Yelm’s Community Development Director Grant Beck retiring after almost 19 years later this month, the city announced that planning functions will report to Public Services Director Cody Colt, who brings a fresh perspective that is quite noticeable.

The Nisqually Valley News reported last week that Colt is applying for funding to update the city’s roads that will eventually connect the Yelm Loop (SR 507). Quoting Dir. Colt, the roads are “definitely not up to par. We’re working on that now and just kind of forward-thinking to get those roads done.”

The Yelm Loop’s city surface roads interface – A Historical Perspective

Mayor Ron Harding requested in November 2008 that WSDOT divide the Yelm Loop into 2 stages for a 1.1 mile stage 1 could be completed when he was mayor. Harding knew that Gov. Christine Gregoire had no funding slated for the Loop in the budget until the 2021-2023 biennium. WSDOT transferred engineering and right-of-way funding from stage 2 to construction funding for stage 1, for Harding to have his ribbon cutting on what became known as the High School Bypass.

When stage 1 opened to traffic on October 21, 2010, the Loop ended at Cullens Rd., a narrow 2 lane road passing through neighborhoods with children and families. Commuter and truck traffic would be going onto city surface streets not designed to carry such loads.

I noticed the long-term use of city surface streets to mitigate this traffic was not included in the Joint Comprehensive Plan with Thurston County and I brought this issue to the attention of then County Commissioner Sandra Romero during her monthly citizen coffee chats in Yelm, April 26, 2010.

Commissioner Romero invited me to meet with officials at county offices to discuss my observations, since I noted part of Stage One of the Loop (Bypass) was outside city limits and in the county. She found my comments valid for review with the Comprehensive Plan Updates of the city & county. I concurred.

Thurston County officials agreed with my assessment and subsequently revised the City of Yelm 20 Year Transportation Plan (2005-2030), since this was a join city-county plan.

The official joint city-county planning document had an appended note at the top stating, “Joint Plan Only – Y3 SR 510 to SR 507 (SR 510 Loop): As of 2010, improvements beyond Cullens Road are not funded, aside from right-of-way acquisision (sic). These Improvements are expected to be funded within the 20-year planning horizon.”

Mayor Harding was livid because light was shined on the facts that unimproved city streets were used for Loop traffic because 1) there was no funding to improve them to proper standards, and 2) that the City of Yelm did not notify their county joint plan partners of this information.

The City of Yelm has done little to improve the Cullens connector street since the Loop opened 11 years ago, except to slightly widen the northbound lane and blacktop the surface.

Now, Director Colt seeks to obtain funding to finally improve the Loop’s connector street within city limits.

Grant Beck’s NVN comments last week were misleading and not historically accurate

I penned this Letter to the Editor of the Nisqually Valley News:

Regarding the story on the Yelm Loop in the July 15 edition of the Nisqually Valley News, Community Development Director Grant Beck is incorrect when he said, “The bottom line is that it was so successful (in helping) the state produce right-of-way acquisition costs that they were able to construct stage one with the money that was allocated for design.”

This is misleading and not historically accurate. Former WSDOT Bypass Project Manager Bill Elliott addressed the Yelm City Council on November 13, 2007, and first discussed council’s questions about splitting the bypass into two phases (or stages), according to the council’s minutes. Then in November 2008, former Mayor Ron Harding wanted to demonstrate his “promises kept’’ campaign pledge about traffic mitigation, and requested WSDOT to divide the “Yelm bypass” into two phases.

Then-WSDOT Bypass Project Manager Dennis Engel was quoted in the Yelm Community Blog in January 2009 saying, “The city of Yelm is working with the Legislature about the possibility of splitting the project into stage 1 and 2, and changing some of the funding to construction so stage 1 could be built. … One possible solution is to move some of the PE [engineering] and right of way [R.O.W.] for the stage 2 area money to construction of the stage 1 work.”

That was what actually occurred; reallocating PE and R.O.W. money to build stage 1, because the city was told funding to complete the bypass was deferred on former Gov. Gregoire’s budget to the 2021-23 biennium, years after Harding would be out of office. Mayor Harding then could have his October 2010 photo op at the stage 1 ribbon cutting of 1.1 miles. The 3.4 miles of the remaining bypass is currently slated to open Fall 2025, Beck’s revisionist history not withstanding.

Click here for the published NVN Letter to the Editor.

Posted by Steve on July 21, 2021 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

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