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Travel stop project raises concerns in neighborhood

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | February 19, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The proposal to build a new truck stop off the south side of Interstate 90’s milepost 174 generated a lot of conversation and questions among residents and with city officials.

Construction is expected to begin this spring for the new Love’s Travel Stop. The 14.6-acre development will include a convenience store, truck stop and fueling station.

Lynne Lynch, city of Moses Lake communication and marketing specialist, said Thursday the city received building plans for review.

“The building review will be underway shortly,” Lynch said.

The adjoining neighborhood is mostly residential and the quickest access to the rest of Moses Lake is the freeway entrance at milepost 174. That’s also the quickest access for residents of Mae Valley on the north side of the freeway. Mae Valley is experiencing a substantial increase in housing construction.

The potential for more traffic from Mae Valley, as well as the traffic generated by the truck stop, caused concerns and an online petition against the project, as well as questions from residents of the neighborhood. City officials have commissioned a traffic study as the first step to address some of the challenges and concerns.

The owners of Love’s Travel Stop responded to inquiries from the Herald with a statement from Chad Previch, external communications manager.

“Love’s is in the process of undergoing extensive improvements around the location. Our improvements will make the interchange much safer than what currently exists,” Previch wrote.

The concern of neighborhood residents is illustrated by a spot along the shoulder of Sage Road, south of the proposed Love’s location. Fluctuating lake levels have eroded the shoulder almost to the edge of the pavement.

Neighborhood resident Jeff Skoubo said Sage Road isn’t built to handle truck traffic, and the proposed traffic revisions will funnel trucks along Sage Road. The revision plan would change Pritchard Road from a two-way street to one- way going east, and Laguna Drive would become a one-way street going south.

Skoubo said that configuration would encourage trucks to use Laguna Drive and Sage Road to access the freeway westbound.

Lew McCullough, also a homeowner in the neighborhood, said the company made a mistake when it chose the site.

“It’s just a terrible location overall,” he said.

The increased traffic from the truck stop, coupled with the growth in Mae Valley, will create bottlenecks, he said.

“There are so many better places to put that thing,” McCullough said.

But local residents should have spoken up when they were first notified about the proposed development, McCullough said.

“I blame myself and the homeowners out there for not jumping on it,” he said.

He saw the notifications posted on the site and said he thought someone else would express concerns.

City Manager Allison Williams said Feb. 4 Moses Lake City Council members were aware of the possible problems, and city staff was looking at ways to discourage truck traffic from using Sage Road. Upgrades are scheduled for Sage Road, although there’s no timeline.

“That fix is on the list,” Williams said.

The traffic study is scheduled for completion in June, Williams said. Its conclusions will provide a starting point for city officials and the council to determine potential fixes.

The next question will be how to pay for improvements.

“It is expensive,” Williams said.

The traffic study will provide what she called “planning-level cost estimates,” and any road work in that neighborhood will have to be balanced against priorities in other parts of the city.

There are a variety of funding sources for road projects, Williams said, including the city’s transportation benefit district, fuel taxes and property taxes, as well as possible outside funding.

In addition, Williams said, people picture the intersection as it looks now, and it’s sometimes difficult to envision how it will function when it’s done. The proposed revisions should reduce some of the traffic problems at the location, she said.