Letters to the Editor

No alternative access

The proposed location for the Granite Falls Motocross Park entails a minimum of 15 miles of driving on two-lane roads from any of the nearest freeway off ramps to the. The final five miles of road, the Mountain Loop Highway, east of Granite Falls, is a winding, mountainous road with steep grades, particularly the long steep grade just prior to the project site known locally as Sand Hill. On the MLH, there is also the narrow Stillaguamish River Bridge, which creates numerous safety problems in itself.
The MLH beyond Granite Falls is a pocket road with no outlet. The sometimes outlet is a dirt road of eight miles, running northward from Barlow Pass toward Darrington, that has been washed out and therefore closed repeatedly. As I write this letter, the latest washout has kept the road closed for the past four years. In the 18 years I have lived on the MLH in the Robe Valley area, washouts have kept that portion of road closed for six of those years, and beyond that, it is always closed in winter (generally November through March or April), meaning that it has been open to traffic much less than half the time over the past 18 years. Under the best of circumstances, the dirt road section of the MLH cannot handle any significant volume of traffic successfully. As such the MLH must be considered a no outlet road with one way in and the same way out.
Should there be a major accident on the Stillaguamish River Bridge, made all the more likely by dramatically increased traffic due to the motocross park, all residents, businesses and visitors would be held hostage on the MLH until the wreckage is cleared, and police investigations have been completed. All emergency services (other than helicopter) would be immediately shut down. If the bridge, itself, were damaged, the entire MLH and all its residents, could be immediately isolated. This would be a major disaster. Since it is well known that most motocross enthusiasts are teenagers and young adults those with the most notoriously poor driving safety records the possibility of such scenarios should be raised from that of possibility to that of likelihood.
I believe it is unprecedented to suggest a project that can draw in this number of participants and spectators especially for major competitive events in a location accessible only by a single two-lane road. I believe it is further unprecedented to suggest a facility such as this on a road that has no alternative access or egress most of the time, or one that has no alternative access or egress that can handle large volumes of traffic at any time.
Unless all access roads are made into four-lane roads and an alternative approach (i.e., a second road with access to the project site) in addition to that of the MLH can be created, it is virtually unthinkable that a project of this scope, with the potential of creating problems of the magnitude outlined above, can be considered by this county at the chosen location.
Bruce Barnbaum
Granite Falls

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