Op-Ed: Is regional trucking placing an unfair burden on Snoqualmie?

[Article by Jim Mayhew, Snoqualmie Council Mayor Pro Tem. Views expressed are those of the author, not the Living Snoqualmie website. Letters and op-eds may be submitted to info@livingsnoqualmie.com]

Most of us drive the Snoqualmie Parkway every day. At least two things are conspicuous: the number of heavy trucks and the deterioration of the roadway surface. Many of us notice the increasing number of pavement cracks and potholes and wonder how soon they will worsen.

In fact, much of the Parkway will before long reach a critical stage of deterioration. If not repaved, the underlying street base will become damaged, leading to increased repair costs. But why is it deteriorating so fast?

A new study commissioned by Snoqualmie measured traffic on the Parkway and where that traffic originates and ends. Using industry-standard “equivalent single axle load” to determining the impact on roadways, it turns out that 95% of the pavement damage on the Snoqualmie Parkway results from heavy vehicles.

Of those heavy vehicle truck trips, 81% both originate and end outside of Snoqualmie. This means the vast majority of Parkway impact results from regional truck traffic not directly related to Snoqualmie (about 77%, equal to 95% times 81%).

Resurfacing the Parkway is needed over the next few years and will cost about $6.4 million, or about $1,500 per Snoqualmie home. Snoqualmie does not directly receive a single penny of revenue to help fund this repaving from the 81% of heavy truck trips that are regional. These heavy trucks do not pay vehicle tab fees or purchase fuel and thus pay fuel tax here. But they pay such fees and taxes to the state, which then uses those amounts to fund statewide roads.

Before the Parkway was built heavy trucks traveled the designated state route (SR 202) to transit Snoqualmie from east to west, with no southbound route inside the city. The State pays the cost of repaving SR 202 (Railroad Avenue) because heavy trucks and regional traffic cause most of the pavement deterioration on state routes.

When the Parkway was built its primary intended use was serving the new ridge development area, not to serve regional heavy truck traffic. It was not designated by the state for heavy truck use or as an extension of SR 18 and thus is a city street for which repaving is entirely the responsibility of city taxpayers.

Snoqualmie funds its transportation costs by dedicating the $20 annual car-tab fees (about $280k per year), gas tax receipts (about $300k per year), and administrative fees on the Waste Removal utility (about $250k per year, dedicated to streets because of the significant roadway impact of heavy garbage hauling trucks). These amounts are set aside solely for transportation.

In addition to funding city-wide street repaving, a portion has been accumulated annually towards the eventual Parkway repaving cost (over $750k has been accumulated over the last decade). This has worked for years because most roads are on Snoqualmie Ridge and were new, needing little capital maintenance.

But these roads are all at least 20 years old, and the annual cost of repaving them now exceeds $1 million annually, excluding the Parkway. To fund the difference between transportation-dedicated revenues and costs, the city now commits an increasing portion of its primary capital-funding source: real-estate excise taxes levied upon home sales. That leaves an increasingly smaller amount for all other capital needs.

Capital needs include buildings, refurbishments or improvements to parks and recreation facilities, potential new facilities such as trails and facilities at Meadowbrook farm, expansion of the community center, or community development projects such as a park trail along the Snoqualmie River. Community development projects serve residents and attract tourists to both support our local businesses and pay sales taxes that reduce pressure to raise property taxes.

Our district’s state legislators have a fantastic record of supporting Snoqualmie’s infrastructure needs. But the state is facing tough times because of the current recession. We are one city in a large legislative district and an even larger state. Most of Snoqualmie’s elected leaders are actively lobbying our state legislators for appropriate and proportionate funding (~77%) for the Snoqualmie Parkway.

However, it helps if state legislators also hear from residents. Please let our state senator and two representatives know your thoughts on state funding to help repave the parkway.

Comments

  1. Snoqualmie girl says

    Thanks so much. I complained to the City about the condition of the recently annexed Mill pond rd and Reinig rd. If you think the parkway is bad now and is being caused by truck traffic. Take a drive and check it out. City assured me they would fix it before the rainy season. The condition of those 2 roads makes your case. In 23 years i have lived here never got that bad when it was county maintained. You just made my argument that if any roads on The Ridge looked like Mill pond in front of the pit there would be alot more complaining.

  2. Richard Scheel says

    Snoqualmie could pass a law similar to Bellevue: https://bellevue.municipal.codes/BCC/11.70.40
    The gist of that law is that Bellevue does not allow large trucks to pass through in city streets – only on state highways. Big trucks are only allowed on city streets if either their starting point or ending point is within (or very near) the city limits. If Snoqualmie had such a law, then the big logging trucks and gravel trucks would have to use SR-202 instead of the parkway. (Note: Snoqualmie City Councilmember Peggy Shepard – my wife – brought this idea to the attention of the City Council back in 2018.)

    • James Mayhew says

      Unfortunately, we don’t really have the ability to prohibit large trucks in Snoqualmie because a state highway (SR 202) runs through the heart of Snoqualmie on Railroad Avenue and the city cannot restrict its use.

      Regional traffic currently uses the Parkway to connect SR 202/SR 203 to I-90 and SR 18. If use of the Parkway is prohibited then most such traffic must go through downtown Snoqualmie and through downtown North Bend. Our downtown, including the railroad trains and depot and the historic, quaint downtown buildings, atmosphere, and merchants, helps make Snoqualmie special. I worry that a significant increase in heavy trucks would deteriorate that experience.

      I further worry that re-routing truck traffic through downtown would not only do harm there but would also significantly impact our neighbor North Bend and their attempts to revitalize their downtown. It would add additional time and therefore cost to regional trucking that would likely impact most surrounding cities and the rest of the county and region. We would therefore I think find opposition from most if not all of the surrounding area.

      • This is a strange argument you are making, Mr. Mayhew. You point out, in your article, that the state already covers funding for 202, because 202 is a state truck route. Now, in your comment, you say that you do not want trucks to use 202, because… it would harm North Bend’s ambience? But you are not elected to serve North Bend, are you?

        So you admit, in your comment, that your preference is for trucks to use Snoqualmie Parkway instead of 202; but the problem, as you point out in your article, is that you don’t have enough money, in the Snoqualmie city budget (not North Bend, now…) to maintain the Parkway, if trucks use it (as you apparently prefer).

        This sounds like a problem of your own creation, to be honest. If North Bend or the truckers don’t want to use 202, then let them get the state to fund the Parkway, and we, the City of Snoqualmie, can change our laws to allow trucks to use the Parkway. Until then, let them use 292, as the state and city (but not you, perhaps?) have already decided.

    • Sharilyn Lux says

      This is a wonderful idea. The City has knowingly been allowing the truck traffic and made the tax payer foot the bill for trucking, and mining interests of a few select companies all along.
      Has CM Mayhew followed where all the trucks go and for which companies? No study needed. A notepad, pen, and a camera.
      It would take about an hour for him to solve this.
      Mayhew can bill those trucking companies directly and quit wasting his time creating churn. Creating red tape, and bankrupting state funds, city funds, and federal funds for future development. To get money to ruin nature for the benefit of the few at the cost of us all.

      We are paying for the trucking companies. Now Mayhew wants to extend his overspending and lack of financial controls to bigger pockets, the state.

    • Grahame Ross says

      Great idea. What do we do from here to make a good ide law?

  3. First we pay as Truckers Ifta its a federal tax on our fuel 2nd we pay a FEDRAL hwy use tax ….so we pay problem is your state takes the money and builds bike paths not repair your roads …it sucks that roads get in bad shape we like as truck drivers nice smooth rides …but I have great ideas 💡 😌 lets raise state property tax 😉 YOU DINT ENOUGH IN TAXES OR SALES TAX..

  4. Bobby Janzen says

    Go after the state for money. I personally don’t use this route and I’ve been driving for 13 years. But I will tell you that us truckers pay MORE THAN ENOUGH money to use the roads. There’s no excuse for them (the state) not to give the city money.

  5. Shoot, just charge Hos Brothers a buck for every time one of their trucks goes up or down it. You could fix the road and have enough left over for that log ride the city promised us back when the Ridge was first proposed…

  6. Sharilyn Lux says

    Exactly. Lets cut the smoke show CM Mayhew. And his search for bigger pockets…pass the buck, where it belongs Mayhew. Onto the company who is destroying the road, not everyone else. Not people in Lynden, WA.

  7. Richard Scheel says

    After a little more research, I discovered that Snoqualmie actually ALREADY has a law that bans this type of truck traffic: https://www.codepublishing.com/WA/Snoqualmie/#!/Snoqualmie10/Snoqualmie1028.html#10.28.
    This law has very straightforward specifications of what is allowed and what is not. It is very clear that trucking like the big gravel and logging trucks on the Parkway violate the law. This is defined as a misdemeanor. We need to have this law enforced!

    • This sounds reasonable–why not just enforce the existing law, at the same time as lobbying the state for additional funding?

      Also, is it possible that the council mayor pro tem just wasn’t aware of the existing law?

      • James Mayhew says

        James, everyone plainly sees what I wrote, please don’t falsely claim I said something else or reorder my words to change my meaning. Having been on the Council for only three years, I am hardly to blame for a roadway built decades ago. Have the courage to make your argument that you wish trucks rerouted from the ridge to downtown, and share your proposal for paying the $1,500 per home cost of repaving the Parkway. I am not optimistic about arguing for the state to pay for repaving of a road we no longer allow heavy trucks on. Beginning a new interpretation of a decades old ordinance, or revising it to actually prohibit trucks on the Parkway, has significant implications to our town and is something residents should now decide whether they want. I want to be sure though that people consider the potentially devastating impact of that on downtown residents, downtown merchants, and the whole ambiance and experience of historic downtown. I implore you, lets each share our view of what we want for our city and not spend time divisively criticizing, mischaracterizing, and demonizing viewpoints that differ from our own.

        • Richard Scheel says

          How is James demonizing you? He merely said that you might not have been aware that we already have a law on the books that disallows most heavy trucks from the Parkway, and that the existing law should be enforced. Why have laws if we do not enforce them (especially when the violations of the law have a multi-million dollar cost to the residents of the city)? This is not a new interpretation of the law. The law is very clear and does not require any obscure interpretation. I’m guessing that the city administration and the police department simply were not familiar with this law. If the administration and the police department were aware of the law and chose to disregard it, then we have a much bigger problem.

          • James Mayhew says

            Richard Scheel, in fact the ordinance states that a truck may use the most direct path to reach designated truck routes, thus permitting transit of the Parkway. This was discussed at Council just three years ago, nobody is unaware. In any event, the ordinance can be changed to what the residents want. So tell us plainly your preference, reroute heavy trucks through downtown or leave them on the Parkway? And there is no time machine, so how shall we pay for repaving the Parkway when the primary cause is regional heavy trucking?

            • Richard Scheel says

              Mr. Mayhew, if you read the ordinance, you will see that it only allows transiting these roads for individual truck trips that are either picking up or delivering to a point in the city, or if the truck’s business location is in the city. The law does not allow transiting through the city from one point outside the city to another point outside the city.

              • James Mayhew says

                Mr. Scheel, I am not an attorney and so it is not for me to interpret the ordinance. The city’s legal department has consistently interpreted it as allowing heavy trucks to use the Parkway, including during the mid 1990’s when the proposal to build the Parkway was being considered. I encourage you to use your legal training to take this up with the city attorney’s office. In the meantime, I am trying to find out what the community wants the outcome to be. I want to know if they really want to push heavy trucking off the Parkway and instead through downtown. And as my article highlighted, how they want the Parkway repaving paid for.

            • “Downtown” is route 202, isn’t it? The truck route designated by the state, for which the state provides funding for upkeep? Or am I missing something?

            • Grahame Ross says

              Define the goal, lay out the facts, lay out the options, price the options, and make a decision. More action, less talk

            • Hmmm… this is not what the ordinance says. The “direct route” exemption only applies to business in the city and/or the home of a driver. At states, it does not apply as a “short cut” exemption between SR 202 and I90. This issue has been bothering me for quite some time but for different reasons – safety and noise. Safety: excessive speeding and unsecure loads. Logging trucks are dangerous. I had a childhood friend killed on a sidewalk when such a truck lost its load. Noise: The gravel truck traffic is excessive. Despite a sign about not using engine brakes within city limits, many of them do.

              • James Mayhew says

                I am so saddened to hear of the senseless loss of your friend Dave. And I agree with and share your concerns. Regarding interpretation of the ordinance, the city’s legal department has consistently interpreted it as allowing heavy trucks to use the Parkway, including during the mid 1990’s when the proposal to build the Parkway was being considered. Not being a lawyer, I must accept that interpretation. But of course we have the power to change the ordinance to clarify what we want. I see a difficult decision in that regard because it isn’t at all clear to me that pushing the heavy trucks through downtown is preferable. I am hoping a consensus will emerge in the community on this.

                • At the very least, I would like to see some of the noise and safety concerns mitigated, even if traffic were to remain on the parkway. Most of the heavy vehicle traffic comes from a small number of companies (gravel/logging trucks are probably 80% of the traffic of concern), and these companies need to understand their responsibilities in traversing city streets, including obeying speed limits and not using engine brakes. I have been especially concerned with safety since Timber Ridge Elementary opened as it is directly on the Parkway.

  8. Many of us have been pointing this out for years. The big trucks are causing heavy wear on the Parkway.

    Anyway, let’s take a bigger look at the truck traffic routes. It’s not just a choice between 202 and Snoqualmie Parkway. Trucks don’t have to use 202 through Downtown Snoqualmie and downtown North Bend. There are, you know, other roads involved. Let’s look at two options.
    1) Medowbrook way to I-90. This was the route into Snoqualmie before the parkway. That said, I agree it’s not a good option. But, it is an option.
    2) Fall City and Fall City-Preston Rd. It would be shorter for trucks to use that route than to go through Snoqualmie and NorthBend.

    If we charge Trucking companies for the traffic they route through the city, they will find alternate routes to use. We don’t have to tell them which ones, they will find them on their own. They always do.

  9. Councilman Mayhew,
    1) Is there an established metric for PCI (Pavement condition index) threshold mandating repair?
    2)At the current traffic rate, what is projected PCI for the road sections in 2022, 2023?
    3)Would changing speed limit on parkway (lower) have any effect on rate of degradation?

    With most truck traffic not orig/terminating in Snoqualmie, would like to reduce freight traffic on the parkway. 202 has been established state-route. Either propose plan to relocate business in downtown off the Highway, or reduce speed in that area (SE Fir – SE Newton), which would make route not as desirable to truck traffic.

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