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Highway 169 circle ditched

By Kevin Hanson -The Courier-Herald

There will be no roundabout around here.

Caving in to public outcry and legislative pressure, the state Department of Transportation has called off its plans to build a roundabout on an increasingly busy stretch of highway just north of Enumclaw. A letter acknowledging that fact was issued Thursday afternoon, directed to 31st District lawmakers.

Citing safety issues, the DOT quietly began designing a roundabout for the intersection of state Route 169 and Southeast 416th Street. A roundabout replaces a traditional intersection with a circular pathway where all must slow down to navigate; the traffic-calming device is meant to eliminate serious, high-speed accidents.

The idea sparked plenty of controversy on the Plateau. Some simply didn't like the idea, claiming it would be tough for large rigs to navigate, while others were steamed that the DOT began such a project without seeking public opinion.

Among those leading the opposition were state Rep. Christopher Hurst and state Sen. Pam Roach; each appeared at a DOT-sponsored open house at the Enumclaw Expo Center, rallying the public with assurance they would fight the roundabout plan.

Formal opposition also came in the form of a letter from the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights. The letter was drafted by Steve Hammond, president of the alliance with assistance from Hurst.

The battle plan paid dividends, according to a letter issued by Lorena Eng, the Northwest regional administrator for the DOT. Her note was directed to Hurst and Roach, along with state Rep. Dan Roach, the legislative trio that represents the Enumclaw area in Olympia.

“All three of you and Governor Gregoire's office contacted WSDOT recently regarding our plans to improve safety on SR 169 at SE 416th Street,” Eng wrote. “After hearing comments from you and other local residents, I have put all work on the roundabout option on hold. We will continue to evaluate other options that will address the safety issues at the intersection.”

In a telephone interview Thursday, Hurst said he had met with Gov. Chris Gregoire and her staff, soliciting their high-level help in fighting the unpopular plan.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.

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