As part of the eagerly anticipated improvements to the S.R. 18 and Interstate 90 interchange outside of Snoqualmie, the Washington State Patrol weigh station along the westbound lanes of I-90 might be getting moved out of the Snoqualmie vicinity and possibly closer to North Bend.
The Washington State Patrol wants it to happen, and the city of Snoqualmie would be thrilled if it did. The city of North Bend, though, isn’t sure about it yet, since one of the new locations is just outside city limits, so city staff there are planning a town hall meeting, with representatives from the State Patrol, from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7 at Mt. Si Senior Center.
North Bend Public Works Director Mark Rigos said the city wanted to hear from the community on the issue before taking a strong stance on the issue.
The issue may not affect North Bend at all, though, by the time the project begins.
“We would like to move the weigh station, but whether or not we can move it to meet the needs of the Washington State Patrol remains to be seen,” said Kris Olsen, WSDOT spokeswoman for the Northwest Region.
According to a WSDOT report on the preliminary sites “Relocating the existing weigh station at the I-90/SR 18 interchange is necessary for the efficiency of the proposed interchange improvements as well as address Washington State Patrol’s needs to carry out commercial vehicle enforcement responsibilities such as weighing vehicles and safety inspections.”
The weigh station relocation, as a component of the overall S.R. 18/I-90 interchange project is still in the very preliminary stages, Olson noted. “We are still in process of selecting the consultant on the overall project.”
That consultant, she said, could be chosen by the end of November. Among his or her responsibilities would be investigating the five potential weigh station relocation sites identified in a WSDOT report, as well as identifying additional potential sites. During the site investigations, all locations for the weigh station would be considered for their compatibility with the needs of the state patrol and the truck traffic using them, as well as environmental reviews, Olsen said.
Five sites were listed as potential future homes for the weigh station, all of them off eastbound I-90 lanes: milepost 28.4, East of the Winery Road interchange; milepost 33.5, between the 436th Avenue and 468th Avenue interchanges; milepost 36.2, between the 468th Avenue interchange and West Homestead Valley Road interchange; milepost 38.8, between the East and West Homestead Valley Road interchanges; and milepost 80.3, West of the Bullfrog Road interchange.
Of these, only the site at milepost 33.5, directly outside of city limits, would affect North Bend. This option, although it sits above the Snoqualmie River and could affect stormwater flow into the city, is the least expensive of the five sites to develop, estimated at a maximum of $19.3 million. It also, according to the site report, has the advantage of space to expand, to add up to 70 truck parking spaces.
Disadvantages of the site, though, include that it would be within a wellhead protection zone, and trucks could bypass the station by taking city streets.
The next least expensive option, at milepost 80.3, would cost an estimated $24.4 million, and would make the least visual and environmental impact of the five options. However, this site would require a traffic diversion not supported by the Federal Highway Administration. Further, the report cites difficulty with hiring and retaining staff for the station, to keep it open regularly, as a likely problem.
Currently, city officials report that the I-90/S.R. 18 weigh station is often closed, which also creates a visual impact.
Snoqualmie City Administrator Bob Larson said “When the weigh station is closed, truckers are using that (area) routinely for their 10-hour rest period.”
The area now has trash containers and portable toilets, to meet truckers’ needs.
Larson didn’t know when or why the station was located at the Snoqualmie interchange, but said it would be a real improvement to the city’s traffic flow onto the highway if the station were moved.
“It just affects traffic that comes out of Snoqualmie,” he continued. “The weigh station is an impediment to an unrestricted right turn lane from the (Snoqualmie) Parkway onto I-90…. It causes a lot of backup on the westbound offramp, all the way back to Exit 27, and that’s when the weigh station is open.”
If the station were moved, the truck entrance to the station could become a westbound on-ramp to the highway, freeing up the other lanes of the road for eastbound I-90 and westbound S.R. 18 traffic.
At any site, the weigh station would be a Washington State Patrol facility, not generating any revenue for the surrounding community.
Whether or not the weigh station is relocated, work on the overall improvements to the interchange near Snoqualmie is scheduled to begin in 2019. For current project information, visit the website at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i90/sr18icimprove.