The Washington State Transportation Commission last week approved preliminary findings for Snoqualmie’s request to relinquish ownership of the Snoqualmie Parkway.
The approval allows commission staff to begin the public review process and hold public hearings prior to a final ruling later this year.
“Taking action on preliminary findings simply authorizes us to go out and collect public input,” said Paula Reeves, a senior policy analyst with the commission. It is not a stance on whether the switch should happen, she said.
Last year, City of Snoqualmie officials requested ownership of the parkway, which is currently under its jurisdiction, be given to the State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). They say the move could save city residents thousands of dollars in future taxes.
Because of its location, city officials argue the 3.5 mile parkway functions as a de-facto state highway — marked by heavy traffic and expensive, routine maintenance. As an extension of the highway system, improvements should be funded by state dollars, not city taxpayers, according to city officials.
“It’s a burden on our taxpayers for the degradation that they’re not causing,” Councilmember James Mayhew said last year. “If we transfer this to WSDOT, this is never our residents’ responsibility again.”
The parkway, which links the Ridge to Downtown, connects several well-traveled routes. The I-90 and State Route 18 interchange sits on its southern end, while State Route 202 is to the north.
As a result, freight trucks — as many as 1,500 a day by one state estimate — frequent the road, causing damage and eventually expensive repairs.
On the Pavement Condition Index, a measure of road quality where 100 is a brand new road and 55 or less is poor condition, the parkway was found to have an overall score of 59, according to prior Valley Record reporting. Nearly all of that damage can be attributed to pass-through truck traffic, according to a city-commissioned study.
Since at least 2017, the city has wanted to repave the road, according to prior reporting, but has faced challenges fronting the millions of dollars needed for repairs.
But that changed last year after the state Legislature stepped in, earmarking a $5 million grant in the state’s Move Ahead Transportation Package to repave the road.
The Snoqualmie City Council put those funds to use on May 22, approving a $3.7 million construction contract with CPM Development Corporation to repave the parkway. The project, which is 100% state funded, is expected to begin in July.
“This is a good thing to do to get the parkway fixed up and ready to transfer over,” Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Holloway said.
The repayment project, known as the Snoqualmie Parkway Rehabilitation, will happen regardless of the state transportation commission’s final ruling on the parkway’s jurisdiction. But the commission’s decision will determine who is on the hook for future improvements.
Ashley Probart, executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board, said whether the parkway ends up being transferred hinges on two primary criteria outlined in the state’s municipal code. That includes, one, is it an urban extension of a rural state highway into or through an urban area and, two, is it necessary to form an integrated state highway system.
“Our assessment is yes,” Probart said last week. “In our review of the criteria this one does check those boxes.”