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Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road Upgrade Project (WA)

Posted: 11/29/2010
by Thomas O'Keefe

After a 7 year hiatus the project to upgrade the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road is back on track and Federal Highways has just announced that they will be hosting an open house in North Bend next week.

Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road Project Meeting
Tuesday, December 7, 2010, 5:00pm-7:00pm
Forest Service Snoqualmie Ranger Station
902 Southeast North Bend Way
North Bend, WA

American Whitewater has supported this project which will result in a more durable and sustainable road that will be significantly less subject to routine closures necessary for maintenance that disrupt recreational access. In addition several stream crossings, some dating back to the days when a railroad went up the valley, will be brought up to modern standards with benefits for water quality and fish habitat. We are also advocating for pull-outs and adequate roadside parking in areas that are important for access points for whitewater boaters. One issue that has come up in preliminary discussions is the project cost savings that could be realized if the road were closed for two years during construction. American Whitewater has concerns with the impact of loosing access to one of the region's most important whitewater runs for this length of time.

American Whitewater will be providing comprehensive comments on this project--a group of volunteers have been tracking this project on behalf of the whitewater boating community and we would welcome anyone who has an interest in joining this effort. For our comments to be fully considered it is extremely helpful to have good participation at the public meeting. If we are recognized as an important user group with an interest in the river and future development of the transportation plan it will assist in making sure our needs are met. At this stage there are really only two things that you need to do:

1) Sign in to the meeting and be sure to identify your interest as whitewater boating.
2) In conversations with project staff note the value of having good access to the river and areas for roadside parking.

For anyone who attends the meeting or submits preliminary comments please share your observations and thoughts. We will develop more specific comments and talking points in the coming weeks based on feedback from our members and affiliate clubs.

In the past we have made the following general recommendations:

1) Protection of the river bed itself is important. For example the little playspot at the bottom of Island Drop is is not a place where we would want to see a bunch of rip rap piled into the river.
2) Safe and legal off-road parking at pull-outs at Island Drop (aka old Mine Creek Campground), the Lake Dorothy Road Bridge (aka Concrete Bridge), and Russian Butte View (intermediate take-out for Upper Middle), and Bridgeview (put-in for Upper Middle) are important.
3) The road should be a paved surface with minimal clear zones that retains its forest road character (i.e. not a "highway" as found along the Cle Elum)

Project Background

The project to upgrade and pave the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road has been discussed for several years and the original funding was appropriated a decade ago. An open house was held in 2003 and American Whitewater and local affiliate clubs participated in several meetings and site visits. The project was put on hold over disagreements on project scope. Those differences were recently resolved and this past fall a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), King County Department of Transportation and the US Forest Service was completed for a project to construct a 20-foot wide paved roadway with funding of approximately $20 million.

Additional Background from Federal Highways

The FHWA, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Transportation and King County, Washington, will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on a proposal to improve Washington Forest Highway 29 locally known as the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road or Lake Dorothy Road.

The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road is the gateway to 109,000 acres of National Forest land and a primary access point for the Alpine Lake Wilderness. The road is located in the eastern half of King County, less than an hour drive from the population in the Seattle area. There is high recreational usage along this route which must accommodate a diverse mix of users including bicyclists, pedestrians, cars, recreational vehicles, timber haulers and trucks.

The existing road is paved for the first 1.3 miles with the remaining portion being gravel. Roadway widths vary from 15 to 28 feet and are not safe to accommodate the mix and volume of traffic. In addition to narrowness, the road surface ruts and potholes badly during winter months causing unsafe and erratic driving conditions. The present road surface is nearly unbladable for maintenance because of the absence of cushion and graded aggregate. The road also is deficient in drainage causing silt laden runoff to empty directly into surface waters. The overall purpose of the proposed project is to improve the physical conditions and safety features of the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road for the existing and projected traffic demand, while minimizing adverse impacts to sensitive environmental resources.

Project objectives will be based on the needs developed during the scoping process. All improvements must be consistent with the applicable guidelines from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Plan, the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Access/Travel Plan, King County plans and ordinances, Washington State regulations and federal regulations.

Written Comments

If you can not attend the meeting and wish to submit written comments you may do so using the following address or email. If you would like to wait until we have additional information on the preferred alternative we will be issuing a future action alert and asking folks to comment then.

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION
WESTERN FEDERAL LANDS HIGHWAY DIVISION
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, Washington 98661-3801

Michael Traffalis, Project Manager
Project Email Address: mfsnoqualmie@dot.gov
 
http://www.wfl.fha.dot.gov/projects/mfsnoqualmie/
 
 

Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012



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Snoqualmie, Middle Fork WA
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Middle Fork Snoqualmie (WA)
AW has been working on resource stewardship along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie in Washington and protecting this drainage for the incredible recreational opportunities it provides.