Officials working on solutions to ease traffic congestion in Yelm

Additional roundabouts coming to town


In efforts to alleviate traffic congestion through downtown Yelm, the City’s Public Works Department has been working to find solutions to backups throughout the area.

Patrick Hughes, Yelm’s public works project manager, said a new roundabout will be coming in at Five Corners, where state Route 507 and Bald Hill Road intersect. This project will coincide with another, smaller roundabout at the intersection of Bald Hill and Morris roads.

Hughes added that the Five Corners roundabout will feature two lanes, while the Morris Road roundabout will feature just a single lane. The project is funded by the Washington state Department of Transportation (WSDOT), but will be constructed by the City of Yelm, Hughes said. The project should start by the end of 2025, Mayor Joe DePinto said.

“(WSDOT) basically gave us the pot of money. They don’t have the staff or resources to do the concepts, design or coordinate construction on it. They don’t have the people to do it,” Hughes said. “We have a vested interest in getting this done.”

Hughes said city officials have had many discussions over the last six to eight months on different options to ease traffic congestion at the Five Corners intersection, adding the City has explored a number of options.

“We explored the Five Corners option. We explored a single lane roundabout. We looked to realign Morris Road. This, of all the options, seems to be the one we’re zeroing in on because it has the best traffic flow, the least amount of impact to adjacent properties for property acquisition,” Hughes said. “We have to look at all of these things together and find out what is the best option, and that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re exploring the option of a five-legged intersection as it used to be.

“We have a lot of concept drawings,” Hughes continued. “We’re working with WSDOT to figure out what’s the best option. All I’m saying here is this appears to be the one that seems to be the most favorable.”

He said the council will need to decide at some point how to deal with the right-of-way acquisition to move the project into the next phase. In addition to the new roundabout at Five Corners, Hughes said another new roundabout will be constructed near Vail Road on state Route 507.

“Farther to the east, as you approach McKenna, the county is working on a new roundabout at the corner of Vail Road,” Hughes said. “There’s been a lot of debate back and forth between Thurston County. They’re doing the same thing we’re doing for WSDOT. They’re taking on that project. The scope of that project has gotten much bigger.”

A third roundabout, he said, will be situated near McKenna Elementary in Pierce County at the intersection of state routes 507 and 702. He described it as a “very similar setup” at that location, too, stating that WSDOT is working with Pierce County on that project.

DePinto said a meeting in either August or September will be scheduled to discuss the roundabout in McKenna.

In addition to the roundabout projects slated to hit the area, the southeast reservoir is currently under construction on 103rd Street and Walmart Boulevard, just north of Yelm’s Walmart location.

“Construction is underway and the foundation is in. The preliminary site work and site grading has been completed,” Hughes said. “The fencing is in, and the steel for the tank itself, they’ve started to deliver steel. It’s going to be going up in the air over the next six to seven months, before the end of the year.”

Hughes added that once the reservoir is complete, the City will begin designing the concept for the next tank because “storage is our issue for water” right now in Yelm.

“We’re going to be looking at a design of a storage reservoir, likely in the southwest part of the city. I don’t know where, just yet,” Hughes said.

Along with the new reservoir, the water reclamation facility, one of the most expensive projects in City of Yelm history, is expected to be completed in 2025.

“This is our $30 million-plus project going on over at the water reclamation facility. This project has been going on for a year and a half already, if you can believe it,” Hughes said. “It’s coming along well. The contractor is on schedule and on budget. The majority of this budget is being funded through a low-interest loan, at least the liquid stream portion of it is.”

Hughes said the City did receive grants for different elements at the facility. One major issue, however, has been a “huge back order” in electrical switchgear, which has been delayed for several months.

Hughes said the project work will continue as much as possible while waiting for the switchgear to arrive. He’s hopeful for a January arrival date.

“Once that gets in, we’ll be going back and installing that equipment, tying it in and finishing the project,” Hughes said. “No additional cost for the project, but a rather substantial delay in time. We’ve granted the contractor the extra time for that. It’s out of his control.”