City council is investigating traffic restrictions on part of the planned Yelm loop

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By Daniel Warn / [email protected]

The Yelm City Council at its October 5th study session discussed the project outline of the Yelm Bypass, particularly with regards to access to Walmart at the southeast end of the loop.

Bill Elliott, the Olympic Region Design Engineer for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) presented the council with the current status of the entire project last month, but part of the presentation raised red flags from some council members.

At the September meeting, Elliott said those coming to Walmart along the loop from 103rd Avenue will not be able to turn left into Walmart because WSDOT plans to install an elevated median on the street. Instead, at the end of the loop, travelers must walk to the scheduled roundabout on State Route 507 and turn around, then turn right on Walmart.

The update met with mixed feedback from council members, several of whom said the restriction would be a nuisance for Walmart shoppers along the corridor.

Elliott stated that traffic models run by WSDOT resulted in the median.

The city council invited Elliott and Scott Sawyer, the loop design team, to its October 5th study session to review this part of the project.

Sawyer stated that the section of the loop on 103rd Avenue down to Walmart is considered “managed access,” compared to most of the loop’s “limited access” corridor, which prevents ramps along a route.

Due to the increased traffic adding driveways to the managed access portion of the loop, Sawyer said WSDOT would like to remove the left turn in Walmart on 103rd Avenue while people continue on the loop towards Highway 507.

Sawyer said when WSDOT works with its managed access corridors, it uses three main tools: a central median to limit turns in traffic, access clearances that keep driveways a safe distance apart, and turn lane channeling to guide turn lanes into driveways install that allows.

He said the proposed median that would prevent left turns is more important to safety along that section of the loop than channeling the turning lane.

“The main point is that access management improves security,” Sawyer said. “It’s not complicated. When we have fewer points of conflict, there are fewer collisions. The less often we can cross the traffic, the lower the probability that this traffic will collide with each other. “

He said secure access is good for business too, although people might disagree at first.

“It is a common misconception that access management is bad for business,” Sawyer said. “When we start managing access to some of these tools I’ve listed, it’s not uncommon for companies to respond and say, ‘This is going to hurt my business and my customers are not going to like it.'”

Studies have shown that restricted access can be neutral or even better for the economy.

“It makes a certain common sense that when customers are frustrated and there is near-misconduct and it’s kind of the Wild West, they end up in a business that puts a bad taste in their mouths.” in terms of the experience of going into this store, ”Sawyer said, adding that the center can strike a balance between comfort and safety given the increased traffic that Walmart creates.

Sawyer said development conditions for Walmart in 2006 support the center’s mean as well as the traffic studies conducted in 2019.

The traffic delay on the planned roundabout on Highway 507 at Walmart will only increase from seven seconds to nine seconds with the median, Sawyer said.

Councilor Tracey Wood objected to the measure.

“What if we as a city say: ‘We don’t like that. We don’t want that. We want a lane to turn right there. ‘ What do we have to say? “Said Wood.

Sawyer said the city has a lot to say, but WSDOT worked with city officials every step of the way on the measure and not developed the proposal itself.

“WSDOT is completely open to the city’s interests and wishes in this area,” said Elliott. “That is within the city limits. The city plays a key role in implementing the managed access criteria to the adjacent parcels within this segment, and city staff regularly interact with these criteria when approving developments. We are absolutely open to the interests and recommendations of the city. “

To add a left-turn lane in Walmart across the median, the city would need to submit a formal design change request to WSDOT in writing, Elliott said. WSDOT would then examine the request.

Councilor Joe DePinto said if WSDOT says traffic is improving with the median, then the council should listen to the experts. DePinto reminded the council that WSDOT could retrofit a left turn lane if the proposed method doesn’t work.

On the subject of speed limits along the loop, Sawyer said a speed limit of 40 mph is the best option for a balance between comfort and safety.

Wood said the 40 mph would be “out of touch” with what his constituents want.

Sawyer said the corridor was an urban artery and not a freeway or freeway that would accommodate higher speeds.

During the presentation, Councilor James Blair also raised concerns about car accidents, which often occur at the intersection of Killion Road along the existing part of the loop.

DePinto said the accidents likely happen because people are driving too fast.

Elliott said he will be in touch with WSDOT traffic operations staff and “make sure they are aware of the problematic intersection”.

Mayor JW Foster said Yelm Police Chief Todd Stancil will provide WSDOT with the year’s accident reports for the intersection.

The meeting also discussed traffic collisions on Coates Road at Crystal Springs Road and Edwards Street, with Yelm Public Services recommending stop signs with pedestrian crossings at the intersections.

Traffic jams in the new Yelm Middle School on Coates Road were also discussed, a situation that Yelm Public Services is considering for traffic improvements.

A possible fund for low-income housing in the district was also introduced for consideration by the council, with Yelm having the opportunity to set up his own housing fund by increasing taxes. The county can impose its own home fund regardless of Yelm’s decision to set up its own fund, Foster said.

Councilors decided that the creation of the possible home funds should be subject to a popular vote, with Councilors DePinto and Blair saying they were against a tax hike.


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