Truckers find flaw in Granite Falls bypass

  • Thu Jan 28th, 2010 10:06pm
  • News

By Bill Sheets Herald Writer

GRANITE FALLS — The truckers have spoken and the county has listened.

Snohomish County is changing its design for three roundabouts planned for the bypass route under construction around Granite Falls after it was discovered they were too narrow for some trucks.

“I think it’s great, they should have had that in the beginning, but what can you do?” said Dale Girven, co-owner of Pacific Logging of Getchell, who worked with the county on the changes.

Construction had already started on two of the three roundabouts planned on the route when some truckers told The Herald last month that the roundabouts were being built too narrow for their rigs. The 2.1-mile, $28.7 million road skirting Granite Falls to the west and north is projected to be finished this fall.

The changes require the contractor to tear out some concrete already poured in the center of the roundabouts. The work will shrink the center circle to give the largest trucks a wider area in which to turn.

The final cost of the changes won’t be known until the work is done, officials said. Bob Morrison, a construction engineer for the county, said he was told to do the work for $10,000 or less.

“The whole process is fairly painless since we caught it at this stage,” Morrison said.

The roundabouts were designed by the county to accommodate trucks 73½ feet in length, officials said. Some local truckers, however, say they sometimes drive trailers up to 115 feet long.

The original design included a brick apron of 10½ feet next to the center circle, intended to allow trucks to drive over it if necessary. In the new design, the center circle is being shrunk and the truck apron is being increased to 20½ feet, Morrison said.

For the redesign, Girven, who hauls logging equipment on “lowboy” trailers, drove one of his longest rigs through a mock roundabout painted on the ground and county engineers took measurements.

When the project was designed over the past eight years, the county had extensive advice from truckers but never heard from drivers of the larger trucks, county engineer Owen Carter said.

“We did not know anything about these long trucks until it was brought to our attention in December 2009,” Carter said.

Many of the trucks expected to use the route serve gravel pits in the area. The county created an advisory group of quarry operators and in 2005. Based on that input, the county laid out a roundabout using cones in a quarry parking lot, Carter said. Quarry trucks navigated the cones successfully, he said.

The original design, he said, “was based on this test.”

Work on the route began last summer. By December, the roundabout at the new road’s intersection with 100th Street NE was mostly complete and work had also begun on a second one at the alternate route’s intersection with Jordan Road.

Now, work has begun on the changes to this roundabout, Morrison said. Next will come work to re-do the center of the roundabout at 100th, he said.

Construction has yet to begin on the last roundabout, where the new road will intersect with Highway 92 west of town.

The new road was inspired by a desire to reduce truck traffic through downtown Granite Falls, where in 2005 more than 2,000 trucks passed through every day, according to the county.

Carter said the county estimates that only about two-tenths of 1 percent of all the trucks expected to use the route in 2012 — 100 out of 500,000 — will be longer than 75 feet. Still, it made sense to make the change, he said.

“We’re trying to accommodate all the vehicles,” Carter said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439, sheets@heraldnet.com.