The City of Snoqualmie is requesting that jurisdiction of the Snoqualmie Parkway be turned over to the Washington State Department of Transportation, which could save residents thousands of dollars in potential taxes over the next decade.
The city has been trying to repave the heavily damaged Snoqualmie Parkway for years, and have been aware of the road’s pavement damage since at least 2017. However, they have run up against obstacles in finding the estimated $6.4 million needed to complete the project.
If left unchecked, the road’s pavement could deteriorate further, leading to a sub-grade failure that will not only balloon the price, but possibly require a full rebuild of the road, said Jeff Hamlin, a city engineer.
Out of a score of 100 on the Pavement Condition Index, where 40 to 55 represent poor condition, the parkway was given a score of 59 in a 2019 analysis, with gradual deterioration expected.
“It only gets worse with time, and some of those measurements are two years old,” Councilmember Matt Laase said at the meeting.
If the road shifts to WSDOT control, the city would still be responsible for sidewalks, street lights and other small parts, but WSDOT — not city taxpayers — would be on the hook for funding major improvements, including repaving.
“WSDOT would be responsible then for the condition of the parkway from curb to curb,” Hamlin said. “Savings would increase exponentially over time.”
The move to change the parkway’s jurisdiction coincides with state Democrats’ proposed $16.8 billion transportation package, which was introduced last month, and earmarks $5 million in funding for the parkway.
If the package passes — which Sen. Mark Mullet and Rep. Bill Ramos have both said they are confident that will happen — it will cover an estimated 80% of what is needed to repave the parkway.
“It’s amazing that it’s in the transportation package,” Snoqualmie Mayor Katherine Ross said. “That’s just the dream.”
Despite that new funding covering most of the cost, Councilmember and Mayor Pro-tem James Mayhew said it’s important the city proceed in its efforts to reclassify the parkway to provide financial relief for residents.
Funding from the state package will stay with the road, regardless of who has jurisdiction over it, but whether that remaining 20% is funded by WSDOT or Snoqualmie residents will depend on whose jurisdiction it ends up in.
“It’s our responsibility until WSDOT takes it — if they take it,” Mayhew said.
Councilmembers see the ownership change as a fair trade-off with the state because the road has long served as an unofficial state highway for freight trucks due to its proximity to I-90 and State Routes 18 and 202.
Those freight trucks have caused at least 95% of the road’s pavement damage, according to a third party analysis funded by the city, while 81% of those trucks are pass-through traffic that did not start or end their travel in Snoqualmie
“It’s a burden on our taxpayers for the degradation they’re not causing,” Mayhew said. “If we transfer this to WSDOT, this is never our residents’ responsibility again, as it should not be.”
If money from the state package is used on the parkway, it’s with the caveat that the road remains open as a truck route, likely meaning additional repaving in the future. That means repaving would need to be done again in 20 to 25 years, with the shift to WSDOT saving city residents money in the long run.
Requesting the road be shifted to WSDOT doesn’t mean the state agency will agree to the shift, however. The city won’t know about the finality of the jurisdiction change until July.
After submitting the application, Ross and the city will also have to negotiate a plan with WSDOT.