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Neighbors want risky road fixed

Middle Fork residents watch one of the many semi-trucks traveling on one-way Middle Fork Road. After a landslide closed a nearby artery, residents have raised concerns over the safety of their road. From left are Sheldon and Katey Hundley, Joyce Showalter with daughters, Bailey, Taylor and Linsay, Teena and Thom Proehl, Bill Carroll, Steve Hughes and Mindy Rowser. - Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Middle Fork residents watch one of the many semi-trucks traveling on one-way Middle Fork Road. After a landslide closed a nearby artery, residents have raised concerns over the safety of their road. From left are Sheldon and Katey Hundley, Joyce Showalter with daughters, Bailey, Taylor and Linsay, Teena and Thom Proehl, Bill Carroll, Steve Hughes and Mindy Rowser.
— image credit: Allison Espiritu / Snoqualmie Valley Record

By Allison Espiritu

Staff Reporter

As Middle Fork Road residents met last Tuesday, Nov. 3, to share concerns on the safety of their street, a semi-truck and trailer rolled past the gathering group.

For neighbors, that truck is an example of the risks and changes they deal with daily on their residential artery.

Residents felt Middle Fork Road was as safe as any other road until last January. The closure of Lake Dorothy Road that month left Middle Fork dealing with two directions of traffic on a one-way road.

Neighbors became concerned about children’s safety and the stability of the road after torrential winter rains created a number of landslides in the area.

Historically used for logging, Lake Dorothy Road provides access to the area for commercial traffic. Middle Fork Road is different — it was built by residents for access to their homes along the river.

Due to the landslides along Lake Dorothy Road, the King County Roads Services Division decided it would be best to close that road for repairs.

Middle Fork Road traffic now includes heavy trucks hauling construction materials to rebuild the bridge over Taylor River, as well as vehicles servicing nearby Bessemer Mine. A recently issued permit increased the number of truck loads hauled out of the area.

Initially set with a 15 ton weight limit, Middle Fork Road saw weight limit signs removed earlier this year.

As a safety precaution, Snoqualmie Valley School District’s transportation department canceled school bus pick-ups along the road, causing children to either walk or ride bikes to get to school.

Addressing residents’ concerns about the weight limit, Roads Services Division spokesman RickBrater said the sign was a standard limit. Additional investigation found there was no reason for any load limit on Middle Fork Road, he told the Valley Record.

Unstable banks on Middle Fork Road led the county to pave part of the shoulder and move barriers back a number of times.

“It was like jello,” said Middle Fork resident Steve Hughes. “They said we’d lose the road because the soil is gone.”

The repair was a good start. The problem, Hughes said, is that water flows underneath the paved road, washing out from below. Unless road crews stabilize the porous foundation, residents believe the problem will persist.

Aware of the number of visitors who come to their neighborhood, residents said the Middle Fork means a lot to those who hike, climb, bike and fish. Keeping the road open provides a way for visitors to recreate.

“It’s kind of disgusting that we’ve done absolutely nothing with one of the most critical areas of the road,” Hughes said. “It’s going to go away, not just for residents and school kids, but for all the other people who come out and use it.”

The roads department plans to reopen Lake Dorothy Road, returning Middle Fork Road to its original state as a residential route. Repairs to Lake Dorothy Road will not occur until late spring, likely finishing in summer of 2010.

As long as the county intends to continue the use of Middle Fork Road for commercial and residential traffic, residents would like to see it repaired and maintained. They also want to see restored school bus service and regular snow removal, as the number of slopes make the drive treacherous or impossible during the winter.

In response, Brater said there are no plans to upgrade Middle Fork Road, other than usual maintenance. It is also part of the county’s overlay program, a procedure that periodically adds a thick layer of pavement to existing roads to help preserve and maintain them.

Each year, the county rates road conditions in unincorporated areas. Middle Fork Road will be monitored as part of that list, Brater said.

Middle Fork Road meeting

A public meeting to discuss concerns and repairs on the Middle Fork Road is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at Twin Falls Middle School, 46910 S.E. Middle Fork Road, North Bend.

An open house at 6 p.m. will be followed by a question-and-answer period at 7 p.m.

Advance questions can be forwarded to King County staff by e-mailing to Sarah.Luthens@kingcounty.gov

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