New highway re-route project reducing congestion in farming community

former state Senator Jim Clements (third from left) cuts ribbon

with business, city, state and legislative colleagues.

Pictured L to R:

TomStokes, Tree Top CEO;

Selah Mayor Bob Jones;

former state Senator Jim Clements;

Senator Jim Honeyford;

Representative Bruce Chandler

and Don Whitehouse, WSDOT regional administrator
By guest blogger Summer Derrey

Approximately 25,000 vehicles enter and leave Selah, a small city in central Washington, every day; that’s almost as many vehicles that travel over Snoqualmie Pass. Although the population is only 7,000, nearly twice as many people live just outside the city limits that are part of the school district. Plus, there are a handful of agricultural companies that rely on easy access to and from Selah, one of which is Tree Top, a national company known for their fruit products.

The state highway, SR 823, is also named S. First Street, the main drag through downtown. Yes, drag is an old term but appropriate for those who have waited in long backups at several stop lights as they idled through the city on their way home.

Residents and commercial vehicles needed better access through Selah. Former state Senator Jim Clements supported the 2005 gas tax and helped put the Selah Re-route project on our to-do list. He is a long-time Selah resident and said this project is very special to him, and it will help businesses grow. To honor Clements for his contributions to the community, the city renamed the new route Jim Clements Way. And at a July ribbon cutting, Mayor Bob Jones presented him with a miniature Jim Clements Way street sign as he thanked him for all of his years as a public servant.

The first phase of this $9.3 million project, completed in July 2011, re-routes traffic away from the downtown core. Now that the new route is open, drivers traveling through Selah to destinations beyond the city limits and trucks hauling freight between the farms and markets can avoid stopping at the traffic signals on S. First Street. They can now bypass the city’s core, shortening the time and travel distance by several minutes and a ½ mile on the new alignment. The new route has two lanes with a center turn lane, relieving congestion on S. First Street. To improve safety and access for both pedestrians and vehicles, we installed traffic signals at the intersections of East Fremont and East Naches avenues and new sidewalks along Wenas Road.

The best part of the project? It’s working. So far, 80 percent of the expected traffic from S. First Street is taking the new route. As more drivers learn about it, more drivers will use it.

We are not done yet. Next year, crews will reconstruct and widen Railroad Avenue to better accommodate truck traffic as part of the final phase of the project.