Reps. Wilcox, Barkis join state and local leaders for second roundtable meeting on highway congestion

Nearly two months after their initial roundtable meeting, state and local leaders reconvened Wednesday at the Yelm Community Center for a follow-up discussion on highway congestion south of Puget Sound — specifically on I-5 and State Routes 507 and 510.

Yelm Mayor JW Foster presided over the meeting, which was organized by 2nd District Reps. J.T. Wilcox and Andrew Barkis. Attendees included a number of elected officials, as well as leaders from Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC) and Intercity Transit. Also in attendance were directors from the Nisqually Indian Tribe.

Lt. Col Jeff Becker, Deputy Chief of Staff at JBLM, kicked off the meeting by providing an overview of what the base — “the other city along the I-5 corridor” — is doing to mitigate congestion on and around I-5. Becker highlighted several initiatives JBLM has launched to not only make on-base traffic flow more efficiently, but to also keep as many vehicles off I-5 as possible. One example is a successful vanpool program, which Becker says more and more soldiers are utilizing each year. JBLM also has several infrastructure projects underway that are designed to reduce slowdowns on I-5 near the base.

David Troutt, Natural Resources Director with the Nisqually Indian Tribe, provided an overview of the environmental impact caused by man-made fills during the construction of I-5 and the Nisqually River bridges. Using timelapse footage, Troutt showed how an oxbow lake has started to form near the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. If the oxbow gets worse, Troutt says flooding could become a major issue and salmon populations could be negatively affected. “There is a sense of urgency from an environmental standpoint, as well as from an economic standpoint,” Troutt said.

Officials with WSDOT and Intercity Transit also gave presentations, providing their thoughts on how best to mitigate traffic not only on I-5, but on SR 507 and SR 510.

Wilcox, R-Yelm, said he was pleased with progress made during the two-hour meeting.

“The input from state and local leaders during these meetings has been phenomenal,” said Wilcox. “It's great to see such a diverse coalition come together to try and solve a variety of problems caused by increased congestion on and around I-5. I look forward to continuing to work with this group to develop both short and long-term solutions that will make a positive difference for Washingtonians.”

Barkis, R-Olympia, said he looks forward to putting the group's input to use during the upcoming legislative session.

“Too often, the Legislature is consumed with funding costly studies when we should instead be tackling actionable items,” said Barkis. “I believe we have a great opportunity to make a real difference by focusing our efforts and resources on projects that can and should be funded now.”

In addition to Wilcox and Barkis, meeting attendees included:

Rep. Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia;
JW Foster, Mayor of Yelm;
Molly Carmody, Yelm City Councilmember;
Michael Grayum, Yelm City Administrator;
Todd Stancil, Yelm Police Chief;
Jeff Becker, Deputy Chief of Staff, JBLM;
John Norgren, Public Affairs Office Legislative Liaison, JBLM;
Ann Freeman-Manzanares, General Manager, Intercity Transit;
Carolyn Newsome, Vanpool Manager, Intercity Transit;
Marc Daily, Executive Director, Thurston Regional Planning Council;
Karen Parkhurst, Programs & Policy Director, Thurston Regional Planning Council;
John Wynands, Olympic Region Administrator, WSDOT;
JoAnn Schueler, Planning & Program Manager, WSDOT;
David Troutt, Natural Resources Director, Nisqually Indian Tribe;
Heidi Thomas, Transportation Planner, Nisqually Indian Tribe;
Joe Cushman, Planning and Economic Development Director, Nisqually Indian Tribe;
Phil Gardner, Dist. Director for Congressman Denny Heck; and
Lauren Adler, Deputy Dist. Director for Congressman Denny Heck


Washington State House Republican Communications