On October 24, 2018 the City of Snoqualmie announced that Mayor Larson and Council Members wrote a formal letter to Michael Cotton, Regional Administrator of the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), imploring WSDOT to use a portion of the SR 18 /I-90 interchange weigh station as a dedicated on-ramp from Snoqualmie Parkway to westbound I-90 to relieve traffic congestion.
WSDOT has said recently that it prefers to use the weigh station property as a construction staging area when the state begins a major construction project to redesign the interchange and widen a portion of SR 18. The city wants to see the weigh station return lane utilized as I-90 on ramp during construction – and is pushing on the state for this option, saying there is room for both.
The $150 million 90/18 reconstruction project is currently in design phase. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2021 and be complete in 2023.
Over the years many Snoqualmie residents have called for the seldom-used weigh station return lane to be used as a dedicated on-ramp. The site, though, is owned by the Washington State Patrol and still operated as a truck weigh and inspection station (although not often) so the option has never been utilized.
Backups on Snoqualmie Parkway on weekday mornings – particularly around 7AM – are notoriously long, sometimes stretching to Swenson Drive. Last week some drivers reported waiting for a half hour to access westbound I-90 from the Parkway.
An excerpt of the letter:
“We write concerning the I-90/SR 18 Diverging Diamond Interchange WSDOT project, which is critical not only to Washington State residents and businesses generally, but to the thousands of our constituents living and working in the City of Snoqualmie.
As you know, the I-90/SR 18 interchange at exit 25 is one of the busiest in the state, used by people who live in the area and commute from the east and west sides of Tiger Mountain, cross-state travelers, and freight haulers. Backups on both I-90 and SR 18 are common and, far too often, both dangerous and excessive.
We can say that we were heartened to see WSDOT’s website posting indicating that ‘WSDOT will continue to monitor traffic in the area and make low-cost improvements, when feasible, to manage congestion until the improved interchange is complete.’
We are writing to urge WSDOT to promptly relocate the weigh station and use a portion of this area to allow for a temporary and designated on-ramp feeding directly off Snoqualmie Parkway onto westbound I-90 during the Diverging Diamond Interchange construction. This is consistent with WSDOT’s stated commitment to make low-cost improvements that would manage congestion in the interim while interchange improvements are being completed, because it would alleviate the current significant backups on Snoqualmie Parkway while also allowing for more efficient vehicle movements from northbound SR 18 onto the existing westbound I-90 on-ramp. These improvements would quickly improve safety conditions while also benefitting thousands of drivers every day, even before construction of the physical interchange improvements has begun.
We understand that WSDOT currently prefers to use the weigh station as a construction staging area. A temporary on-ramp and construction staging are not mutually exclusive, though, given the large size of the weigh station property and the return lane associated with it. And, there are multiple other sites in the immediate vicinity that can be made available for construction staging. To the extent other sites are needed, the City of Snoqualmie would gladly work together with WSDOT, property owners, and the public to ensure that other staging areas can be arranged that meet WSDOT needs while also allowing use of the weigh station area for a temporary I-90 on-ramp. Construction staging convenience does not justify not utilizing the available weigh station lanes as a temporary, additional westbound I-90 on-ramp that will make such a difference to public safety and so many individual drivers who use the interchange on a daily basis.
We look forward to working with Senator Mullet, WSDOT Secretary Millar, and your project team at WSDOT, so that the I-90/SR 18 interchange improvements become a reality as soon as possible. The State — and our City — depend on it.”
For more information visit the City of Snoqualmie I-90/SR Interchange Improvement page.