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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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