One of the first things that needs to happen before the congested, and often times dangerous, I-90/SR 18 interchange can be redesigned is for the WSP weigh station (truck scales) located at the site to be relocated.
Where that station will be located is battling a bit of NIMBY, though.
Relocation Key to I-90/SR 18 Re-design Project
State legislators pushed up funding for the $150 million 90/18 improvement project, allowing design this begin summer, with construction estimated to start in 2019. Originally the gas tax funded project wasn’t expected to start until 2023.
With the weigh station moved, the antiquated, signal-controlled interchange will become a diverging diamond interchange and the money saved from the “innovative” DDI solution will be utilized to widen SR 18, possibly to the Raging River.
The project is anticipated to improve safety at the interchange, which is a major commercial freight thoroughfare and where merging vehicles often back up onto I-90, a 70mph freeway. These backups have caused several serious collisions in recent years with increased truck traffic and population growth in southeast and east King County.
Step one: Move the Weigh Station
Over the summer the state evaluated five possible state-owned locations, all along eastbound I-90, as the state says the westbound direction is already served by a station in Cle Elum and the eastbound weigh station near Cle Elum “has not been in regular operation for several years due to poor sight distance, inadequate queue storage, and staffing shortage.”
The recommended location is a site between eastbound I-90 exits 32 and 34 in North Bend. According to a site evaluation, this spot “addresses the need for a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement presence in this area with the least impact and at the lowest costs.”
Evaluated Weigh Station Relocation Sites
City of North Bend Opposed
The City of North Bend, though, is opposed to this location. City Administratior Londi Lindell said it actually has more to do with the design and size of the proposed weigh station rather than the location. The state is proposing the new weigh station be larger than the one it will replace, including the option for 35-70 parking stalls and restrooms.
Lindell feels the state is essentially proposing a truck stop and although the site is just outside city limits, it is very close to the city zoning area that prohibits a Truck Town expansion or any new truck stops.
The city feels with the larger weigh station design will come adverse environmental impacts brought on by increased traffic – like air, noise and light pollution. Lindell said the site is also close to a school, a neighborhood and the city.
The City of North Bend prefers the weigh station be located at milepost 38. Lindell also has concerns over the state’s cost estimate for this exit 38 spot, feeling it is too high. She said she feels the state doesn’t like this location because of its proximity to a state park.
When asked if the city would be opposed if the weigh station was smaller, like the one it is replacing, Lindell said no. She said the city will closely monitor the SEPA and NEPA process if this site is ultimately chosen.
State says Exit 34 Area needs Commercial Truck Enforcement
Washington State 5th District Senator Mark Mullet said he understands the city’s concerns, but explained this area – due to the proximity to Truck Town and the spot where I-90 is closed during inclement weather at Snoqualmie Pass – needs commercial truck enforcement and more dedicated parking spots to get trucks off of North Bend city streets and freeway shoulders.
Senator Mullet said the new weigh station isn’t anticipated to increase truck traffic, that the trucks are already in the exit 34 area and using exit shoulders and nearby city streets for parking. He said having a better, more functional weigh station would put dedicated WSP Commercial Enforcement officers in North Bend, where commercial vehicle enforcement is greatly needed.
He also said the significant cost savings with this site is a big deal for the 90/18 improvement project, saying every dollars saved on the weigh station relocation is money that will be spent widening SR 18 between I-90 and the Raging River, an expensive component to the $150 million project. For example, if $100 million is spent to relocate the weigh station to exit 38, there would very little left for SR 18 widening.
Mullet said for those who might be “anti-truck,” a weigh station and the WSP commercial vehicle officers that would accompany it, are a good thing.
The I-90/SR 18 Interchange Weigh Station Site Investigation Recommendation:
“This location has a preliminary design that allows the WSP and WSDOT to answer the significant need for a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement presence in this area while minimizing impact to the surrounding community and natural environment. This station also allows for a solution to the parking crisis that exists in this area with a potential for future expansion to as many as 70 parking stalls. This option also accommodates the operational efficiency proposal to have the local WSP enforcement detachment be co-located with the WSP Commercial Vehicle Enforcement detachments.”
This recommendation is not a final siting decision. According to the evaluation document: “As the project advances, formal environmental and operational studies and analysis will be required before any final siting decisions and commitments are made. This process will include stakeholder and community engagement, in order to ensure that all questions and concerns are heard and responded to, and any necessary mitigation and design or construction commitments are identified.”