Friday, April 13, 2012

Paving the Middle Fk Snoqualmie River Rd

Kim Brown, Public Lands Intern

A hiker sunbathes on shore of Mid Fk Snoqualmie River
Through Federal Highways, King County and the USFS have published an Environmental Assessment (EA) for proposed plans to upgrade and pave the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road from milepost 2.4 to the new(ish) Middle Fork Campground, a short distance beyond the Middle Fork Trailhead at milepost 12.4.

There will be an Open House at the North Bend Ranger Station on Thursday, April 18th , from 5:00pm-7:30pm at the Snoqualmie Ranger Station in North Bend at 902 Southeast North Bend Way. Engineers and staff from FHWA, King County and the Forest Service will be present to answer questions and discuss the preferred alternative.

There are two alternatives in this EA – a No Action alternative, and the Preferred Alternative (to upgrade and pave). Upgrading the road will :

  • Provide better Aquatic Organism Passages (culverts)
  • Include better signage
  • Narrow those portions of the road where a wider corridor was created by drivers wishing to avoid potholes and washboarding.
  • Replace three bridges
  • Soften sharp curves
  • Lower maintenance costs (King County reports in the EA that the road maintenance costs an average of $8,000 per mile each year, and nearly $500,000 total for years with high flood damage).

During the Open House in June, 2011, I spoke to an engineer who advised a non-permeable surface will top a coarse material on top of “better-than-native” material (used when native soils aren’t suitable). The non-permeable surface will better direct water to road ditches, and not percolate underneath the pavement, which is a major factor in the deterioration of roads.

During the scoping (planning) phase, the public made it known to the agencies that aesthetics are important to drivers. As a result, the road design is much narrower than the 28 feet originally proposed. Rock faces blasted for construction will be resurfaced to ensure a natural look. Native plants will be planted and monitored afterwards to minimize mortality and the establishment of invasive vegetation.

It is projected that the paving will invite more recreation in the Middle Fork watershed, and that there will be some increase in traffic – up to 24 vehicles per day by 2031 – that will somewhat impact the solititude of some trails, but the Middle Fork Snoqualmie should be inviting to everyone - and the road condition has been a limitation toward attaining that goal.

During construction, hikers can expect periodic closures and limited access in some areas. It is hoped that the road will be open during weekends; however that is not guaranteed. Closures will be posted on Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest's  (MBS) website, or hikers can call the North Bend District of MBS at (425) 888-1421.

This will not impact recreation this summer, however! Construction is not expected to begin until sometime in 2013.

The paving of the Middle Fork, along with the reconstruction of the Mailbox Peak trail, the on-going planning of improvements to DNR’s Snoqualmie Corridor Recreation Plan, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Natural Recreation Area, families and other recreationists in the Puget Sound area are guaranteed reliable recreation practically every day of the year!

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