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WSDOT submits gravel pit comments

NORTH BEND — Washington State Department of


Transportation (WSDOT) officials last week submitted their official comments


regarding the proposed gravel pit on Grouse Ridge, denouncing the use of


Interstate 90's Exit 34 for gravel-hauling trucks.


The letter states that if Cadman's plan to use Exit 34 — also referred


to as the Edgewick Interchange — to gain access to their gravel


operation is approved, safety problems could occur.


"We know they're going to impact (Exit 34) and we need to determine


if it's severe and adverse," said John Sutherland, developer services


engineer for the transportation department.


The letter reports that WSDOT "does not favor the proposal


utilizing Exit 34" and that the agency is


"very concerned about trucks mixing with the existing commercial and


residential, and ultimately, with school traffic."


"While this mix of traffic may be forced to co-exist in some areas, it


is undesirable and unnecessary at this location," the report goes on to


state, adding that Exit 38 is "underutilized, is undeveloped and provides


direct access to the Upper Site" and is


"the logical choice as the primary means of ingress and egress for this


development."


The submittal of WSDOT's comments has added fuel to the


ongoing debate over which interstate exit should be used to access the


proposed 300-acre gravel operation on Grouse Ridge.


In addition, the letter asks that more information be provided


than what was included in the draft environmental impact statement


(DEIS), specifically on traffic studies and traffic impacts to the area.


It also states that the number of daily truck trips listed in the DEIS


is inaccurate, as only one-way trips for the 75-foot-long gravel haulers


were included.


Many neighbors of the land, as well as Snoqualmie Valley


School District No. 410, have previously stated their opposition of using


the Edgewick Interchange.


The school district's response to the DEIS states that the gravel pit


and its resulting traffic could compromise the safety of children, school


buses and parents shuttling their kids to future middle and elementary schools


to be built nearby.


"Simply stated, our board will be pleased that the WSDOT affirms


the impact, specifically on children," said Dr. Richard McCullough,


Snoqualmie Valley School District superintendent.


The school district purchased the nearby land on Oct. 19, 1997,


well before Cadman's plans for a gravel pit were announced.


"I was very pleased that the Department of Transportation has


verified what the citizens and the moms of the Valley have been saying,


which is that additional truck traffic would be competing with school buses


and kids on bikes," said Jacki Taylor. She lives near the proposed gravel


operation and has two children that will attend the new schools when they


are built in four years.


"The traffic is going to be intense, and the likelihood [is] that within


the 25-year lifetime of this project, a child will be hurt," Taylor added. "And


I don't want it to be my child, and I don't think anyone in the Valley


wants it to be their child. It's an accident waiting to happen is what it is, and


I don't want to be reading about another death for our Valley kids — we've


had enough of those the last couple of years,"


But Robin Hansen, Cadman project manager, said there are


several reasons why Exit 38 is a bad choice.


One is that in order to use Exit 38, the Fire Training Academy


Road would be used to access the site, and it would need to be widened.


This poses an environmental problem because the road runs through two


state parks and is close to an owl habitat.


"Exit 38 just doesn't work because of safety issues and


environmental impacts," Hansen said.


Another reason is that Exit 34 was specifically designed as a


truck-use interchange since Seattle East Trucktown occupies land next to


the interchange.


"It doesn't make very good environmental sense to put trucks


where trucks aren't when you've got an existing truck-use exit," Hansen


said. "But that's up to King County, with its [environmental impact


statement], to deduce. That's what the whole EIS process is for.


"I think there are ways that we can improve that exit with traffic


signals and widening," she added of Exit 34. "They can make that exit function


better than it already is."


WSDOT is the last organization to submit comments to King County


regarding Cadman's DEIS. Although the comment period ended in


August, WSDOT was allowed an extension because the agency was late in


receiving the DEIS due to a mix-up.


According to Sutherland, a copy of the DEIS was sent to the


Yakima WSDOT office, which is responsible for the interstate east of Exit 34.


It should have gone to the local WSDOT office that is responsible for the


area west of the interchange.


Sutherland explained that since his department is involved with the


safety of highways, interchanges and motorists, it was necessary to submit


comments.


"Our analysis is important," he said. "It's an environmental


review, and we are involved with that heavily."


The county's Department of Development and Environmental


Services, which is currently reviewing the gravel project's DEIS, will


ultimately recommend one of the two options in a final environmental impact


statement that is expected to be released early next year.

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