Regarding the story on the Yelm Loop in the July 15 edition of the Nisqually Valley News, Community Development Director Grant Beck is incorrect when he said, “The bottom line is that it was so successful (in helping) the state produce right-of-way acquisition costs that they were able to construct stage one with the money that was allocated for design.”
This is misleading and not historically accurate. Former WSDOT Bypass Project Manager Bill Elliott addressed the Yelm City Council on November 13, 2007, and first discussed council’s questions about splitting the bypass into two phases (or stages), according to the council’s minutes. Then in November 2008, former Mayor Ron Harding wanted to demonstrate his “promises kept’’ campaign pledge about traffic mitigation, and requested WSDOT to divide the “Yelm bypass” into two phases.
Then-WSDOT Bypass Project Manager Dennis Engel was quoted in the Yelm Community Blog in January 2009 saying, “The city of Yelm is working with the Legislature about the possibility of splitting the project into stage 1 and 2, and changing some of the funding to construction so stage 1 could be built. … One possible solution is to move some of the PE [engineering] and right of way [R.O.W.] for the stage 2 area money to construction of the stage 1 work.”
That was what actually occurred; reallocating PE and R.O.W. money to build stage 1, because the city was told funding to complete the bypass was deferred on former Gov. Gregoire’s budget to the 2021-23 biennium, years after Harding would be out of office. Mayor Harding then could have his October 2010 photo op at the stage 1 ribbon cutting of 1.1 miles. The 3.4 miles of the remaining bypass is currently slated to open Fall 2025, Beck’s revisionist history not withstanding.
Steve Klein, Yelm