Congestion vexes Salmon Creek seniors

Former Sen. Bauer urges 139th Street extension to ease traffic

By Dameon Pesanti, Columbian staff writer

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Former Washington state Sen. Al Bauer and his neighbors have a front-row seat to the heavy traffic that builds up on Salmon Creek Avenue after classes are finished at Washington State University Vancouver and the evening commute begins.

“It just crawls,” he said, referencing the line of cars that backs up at the traffic light where Northeast 134th Street connects to Northeast Salmon Creek Avenue.

From his home at the Bonaventure of Salmon Creek senior living community, which sits along Salmon Creek Avenue, Bauer said he often sees a line of cars can that easily stretch up the block and up the hill that leads to the WSUV campus after classes let out. That congestion can complicate things for people coming and going from the facility he lives in.

“Traffic from this facility can’t get out,” he said.

In addition to congestion, residents have to contend with the noise from cars with loud exhaust systems and loud stereos. Now, some of the residents in his facility are crafting a petition urging officials to address the issue.

Bauer thinks he’s found a solution. He’s doing his part by doing much of what he did as a senator: connecting with local policymakers, potential stakeholders and sharing his idea.

Currently, eastbound Northeast 139th Street ends at Northeast 29th Avenue, east of Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

Bauer argues that extending 139th Street east to Northeast Salmon Creek Avenue would give WSUV students more direct access to Interstates 5 and 205 and prevent traffic from backing up on Salmon Creek Avenue in front of the retirement home.

“It would be a perfect fit for a short route for those kids, and they avoid coming through this light,” he said, referencing the traffic light in front of Bonaventure.

He also says that the road would help ease future congestion issues in light of the amount of growth that is poised to come to Clark County in the near future.

Bauer has met with Clark County council Chair Marc Boldt and officials from WSU Vancouver to share his idea.

Boldt said extending 139th Street was in the county’s plans for the area in the early 1990s. The idea was dropped, but Bauer said that doesn’t mean it can’t be revived.

“I think it does have legs, because when you consider the number of cars that will be coming from WSU and when we do the next phase of I-205, you’ll be getting a lot of cars, and you have three bad intersections that are being used up,” Boldt said. “I’m not saying it’ll happen in the next two or three years but it’ll definitely need to be addressed.”

The county keeps an atlas, a map book of all its roads. Those that aren’t built yet but are in the atlas are represented by a dotted line. The 139th Street extension to Salmon Creek Avenue isn’t one of them.

The first step to planning the extension is getting it in the atlas. But the time for that to happen this year has already passed, so it’d have to wait until next year.

Clark County Public Works spokesman Jeff Mize said there are still many steps and much work that would have to happen for the project to even be considered.

There are a number of steps to building a road, even before any asphalt can touch the ground. Beyond getting the extension into the atlas, there would have to be the planning and conducting environmental studies, investigating and pursuing any potential land acquisitions, drafting actual road plans and getting the money to pay for it all — to name a few.

“It would be a fairly lengthy process with a whole host of studies done to determine the feasibility of it,” Mize said. “If it’s going to be a future road project, we’re at the very beginning of it.”