This intersection is the proposed site for a new roundabout, to be built by the Snoqualmie Tribe to service its new gas station and convenience store, now under construction. Evan Pappas/Staff Photo

Snoqualmie Tribe begins talks with community, county, on second roundabout project

Work has started on a new gas station and convenience store on North Bend Way, near the Snoqualmie Casino, but a project to improve access to and from the businesses is just in the design stage and already encountering obstacles.

The Snoqualmie Tribe, which owns the casino, broke ground for the new 12-pump station last May, and announced its plans to build a second roundabout, or traffic circle, at the entrance to the gas station last August. The new roundabout to be located just west of the existing roundabout to the casino, on the county-owned North Bend Way, has become a concern for the residents of the nearby dead-end street, 372nd Avenue Southeast.

The road serves 24 residential lots although some lots remain undeveloped.

Leaving their street, residents say, is already a difficult prospect, with speeding cars coming off the nearby I-90 exit from the west, and cars picking up speed on North Bend Way as they approach the freeway on-ramp from the east. Adding the attraction of a lower-cost gas station will only make things more difficult.

“If you just slow down (traffic) but add more cars, you still can’t leave your neighborhood,” 372nd Avenue resident Elizabeth Cambier told the Record recently.

A meeting between casino staff, tribe representatives and the street’s residents Jan. 31 did little to appease resident concerns. However, Snoqualmie Tribe government affairs staffer Jaime Martin provided the following statement from the tribe’s leadership:

“The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe is here to listen to the community to find a win-win scenario for everyone involved while we work toward responsibly creating jobs and boosting the local economy. We are committed to being good neighbors with community safety as our number one priority.”

“The tribe is grateful for the feedback from the community. The tribe’s consultants have already met with county Department of Transportation representatives to review the comments received at the open house. They are currently in the process of studying potential additional improvements, and our consultants anticipate having options for council to review next month.”

Because the proposed project would be built on a King County right-of-way for an arterial road, and paid for entirely by the Snoqualmie Tribe, only the nearby cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend are required to receive public notifications during the process. The gas station to be served by the roundabout is on tribal land and not subject to the same requirements for public notifications as the road project, said Randy Sandin, with the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review.

“The only thing we’re involved with is the right-of-way,” he said. However, he added, the public meeting “was something that we strongly recommended.”

His department had already been receiving informal comments and concerns about the project, he said and had passed all of that information along to the tribe.

Most of the concerns, he said, were about general safety and the difficulty of making a left-hand turn from the street. The project consultants have already begun working on ways to address those concerns, including a consideration of adding a left-hand turn lane for the neighborhood.

“We’d also heard from the mayor of North Bend about potential issues with trucks trying to get in and out of North Bend, large trucks,” Sandin said.

It is up to the tribe to determine how to address the concerns of its neighbors. The county’s approval of the project will be based strictly on how well it conforms to the code.

“The right-of-way use permit and the actual construction permit, are basically administrative decisions, based on code,” he said, but added “the county does have the ability to influence safety in the right-of-way…. We would want to know what the effect of the roundabout is going to have on traffic flow, which would affect speed limits.”

The county roads division has requested analysis of traffic speeds at the project, sight lines, and trip counts for the three associated intersections — 372nd, the gas station driveway and the casino roundabout entrance. Engineering consultants at David Evans and Associates, Inc. are doing the traffic analysis, to be submitted with the permit application.

In addition to traffic impacts and safety concerns, Sandin said county engineers will review the application closely for its plans for stormwater storage.

In the pre-application meeting that county officials had with the tribe’s consultants, Sandin said, several design problems were identified, but “none of them were fatal to the project.”

No schedule has been set for the project; when the tribe announced its plans for the project, a spring or summer 2017 start was projected.

Cars leave the Snoqualmie Casino, heading west to I-90, or east to North Bend. Evan Papps/Staff Photo

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