SVSJ commentary: Time for state to address SR 18 over Tiger Mountain, and make it their top transportation priority

Time now for a commentary, and we’re headed off the beaten path a bit for this one.

Those of you who are following our Twitter feed @snovalleysports have probably seen that off and on in the past few weeks, we’ve been moving out of our regular sports mold a bit and retweeting comments regarding a major issue for folks in the Valley and around the state: transportation. Particularly the safety concerns surrounding State Route 18 over Tiger Mountain and its impact on the Valley and the state.

As many of you are well aware if you’ve seen the I-90 interchange at Highway 18, the highway has become a very important corridor linking the Valley and southeast King County, and the numerous trucks you see on that road underscore its very essential role in Washington’s commerce and international trade, being the primary link for those trucks traveling to I-90 and eastern Washington from the port of Tacoma. But, as you’ve also seen, it’s also been a very dangerous road, with numerous serious injury or fatal accidents on the stretch over Tiger Mountain over the years, most recently a couple of weeks ago, when a mother and her daughter, both headed to work at Snoqualmie Casino, were killed in a head-on crash.

As you probably have heard, yesterday, Casino CEO Brian Decorah, in a letter to state transportation officials, relayed an offer by the casino to pay for the full cost of a study to determine how best to proceed with improvements to the road to help make it safer. The $1 million cost of this study was set to be paid for by the state, but reportedly that money will not be available until sometime next year, and the casino has offered to pre-pay it now so that this process can start moving quicker.

Granted, this is an issue that’s not sports-related, but in a way, there is a sports angle to this issue, specifically if you are a Mount Si High School or Upper Valley youth sports fan. Mount Si High’s volleyball and baseball programs are very familiar with this stretch of road in particular, and the Wildcat football team’s representatives who will be headed down to the playoff games tonight in Pierce County we discussed earlier will all be traveling on this road.

With respect to volleyball, a lot of you may not know this, but head coach Bonnie Foote and her family live down in the Kent area, meaning she commutes to work at the high school, where she is a physical education teacher, using this highway daily, and she has been doing this for nearly 20 years now, much of that time with her young daughter in tow. And this program has also had at least one player transfer from it in recent seasons due to a parent job situation that resulted in the family moving closer to that job in that same area, you guessed it, because of concerns about how the travel on the highway would impact that parent’s commute to work.

Mount Si’s baseball program, as you know, has used off-campus sites in recent years for practices and games due to there being no local facility to use while their new field at the school awaits construction; one of those sites is a park down in Ravensdale, near Maple Valley, which requires travel on the highway to get down to this location. And Valley youth sports fans and parents are very familiar with the road, too, as many of you have traveled this highway to take your kids to games in places like Auburn, Renton, Kent, Enumclaw, Tacoma and points further south.

Concerns about the dangers of this stretch of road are nothing new; your editor is a native of this Valley and there have been fatals on this road pretty much since the thing was built 40-plus years ago. It’s only gotten worse in recent years, though, as development in both east and southeast King County has increased the volume of traffic on the highway, as people use the road as a quicker shortcut to avoid the heavy traffic on I-405 and roads closer into Seattle.

With that, and the increasing reliance on this road for intra (and inter) state commerce, this highway has become an extremely important conduit for the overall transportation system in Washington state. And yet, the state’s contention that money won’t be available until next year rings a continued pattern that, to us, speaks to the real issue we see here: that those in charge of this at the state level, outside of our 5th District elected representatives, Sen. Mark Mullet (D) and Reps. Chad Magendanz and Paul Graves (both R’s), don’t view this as its top transportation priority. The City of Snoqualmie, led by Mayor Matt Larson, has been working hard on this issue, as have our elected legislators, but if transportation leaders don’t view it the same way everyone on the ground does, then you’re not going to get anywhere.

We hope that state transportation leaders will accept the offer from Snoqualmie Casino and begin work on this study right away. Because it’s time for those leaders to wake up and recognize what people in this Valley have known for many years now – that fixing this highway and making it safer should be this state’s top transportation priority.

Rhett Workman

About Rhett Workman

Rhett Workman is the editor of the Snoqualmie Valley Sports Journal. Workman is a veteran sports journalist, having covered Snoqualmie Valley sports for nearly a decade with the Snoqualmie Valley Record newspaper before starting up the SVSJ. Workman's coverage has earned the support and respect of Valley coaches, players, parents and fans, and the SVSJ continues the standard of coverage that Workman brought to the Valley Record.
This entry was posted in Football, News and Comment, On the Diamond, Volleyball. Bookmark the permalink.