Tumwater residents concerned E Street extension will rip through forested hill


Tumwater residents near Cleveland Avenue expressed their concern regarding the impact of the E Street Connection project.

The road project will connect Capitol Boulevard to Cleveland Avenue by extending E Street. According to the city’s website, the connection would serve 28,200 vehicles daily, 80% of which are regional commuters and commercial vehicles.

Four residents spoke during the public comments section of the Tumwater City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, February 6, to warn the council about the impact of the project on their community and on the nearby environment.

Resident Thomas Doenitz appealed to the council to place the project on its agenda for discussion before they allocate funds to the project.

“In the name of equity and inclusion, our community would like the E Street extension to be put on the agenda for discussion before any funds are allocated to this project,” Doenitz said.

Doenitz mentioned that former Councilmember Charlie Schneider met with them in May 2023, who wrote to the city’s engineering department stating that residents’ concerns were worth reviewing.

Other commenters lamented the lack of notice to the public about the project, as well as the potential impact of the project on the nearby environment.

City Administrator Lisa Parks said that the specific alignment of the road is still unknown until they can acquire funding for the design, planning, and permitting of the project.

“Until that money is made available to us, the specifics about how and where that route is going to be located are unknown at this point in time,” Parks said.

The city’s website, however, contains a layout showing what appears to be a possible routing of the E Street extension.

The layout shows an elevated bridge extending from E Street that would pass through the railway tracks and run parallel to it before curving to Cleveland Avenue. The road would cut through a forested hill before terminating on a roundabout on Cleveland Avenue.

The layout also shows another roundabout at the intersection of E Street and Capitol Boulevard.

The layout is the same as a proposed routing identified by SCJ Alliance when it was studying different alternatives for extending E Street in 2017.

Parks added that the project has been part of the city’s funding requests to the state legislature for years. The city has requested around $6-$7 million for the project's design, engineering, planning, and permitting.

According to the city’s website, constructing the E Street extension would cost $47.6 million. Combined with the design and right-of-way acquisition costs, the project's total cost is estimated at $54.2 million.

Parks also assured that they would involve the public further once they begin the design and permitting of the project.

Residents prefer earlier alternative

An earlier alternative studied by SCJ Alliance shows the E Street extension ascending directly up to Cleveland Avenue.
An earlier alternative studied by SCJ Alliance shows the E Street extension ascending directly up to Cleveland Avenue.

The comments from the four residents come after city staff held an open house event last week on January 31 to gather community input about the 2025 comprehensive plan update. During the event, which was attended by 60 people, according to Parks, at least 6 people commented and brought up questions about the E Street project during the almost two-hour talks.

One resident spoke in length about the project's history and discussed another alternative for E Street they preferred.

According to SCJ Alliance’s proposals back in 2017, there was an alternative routing in which a bridge from E Street would directly ascend to Cleveland Avenue and terminate at the avenue near the O Bee Credit Union branch. This option would require large earthworks into the hillside, but fewer trees would be affected.

A major factor when the study was being conducted was that LOTT Clean Water Alliance was considering the site of a future water reclamation plant in the area.

If the city pursued the shorter option, they would have needed a separate road from Cleveland Avenue to access the LOTT’s site due to the difference in grading of the E Street extension and the site.

The resident who spoke about the project's history, however, argued that LOTT is no longer considering the site for development.

LOTT’s latest master plan, approved in 2023, stated that it would focus on expanding Martin Way Reclaimed Water Plant and Budd Inlet Reclaimed Water Plant instead of developing satellite facilities for water reclamation.

“Because of the shift away from developing additional satellite production facilities, several undeveloped properties held by LOTT are likely surplus to the needs of the utility, including Mullen Road site and Deschutes Valley property,” the document stated.

As SCJ Alliance’s study was conducted years before LOTT’s latest master plan, the firm ended up recommending an alternative that appears to be one currently presented in the city website.

This longer alternative allows the construction of a more direct access to the LOTT site after the length of the elevated bridge portion of the E Street extension. This option would require a “large earthwork cut” and the construction of retaining walls as the road passes through the forested hill to connect the road to Cleveland Avenue.

CORRECTION, February 22, 2024: The original version of this story made one citation of "East Street" instead of E Street.  This has been corrected. 


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  • Dogmom

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I am one of the residents that would be affected by the route the City of Tumwater has on their website. They say they haven't decided on a route but the one shown on website is the only one they show even though there were additional routes when the study was done by SCJ Alliance. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of your readers. The route they show goes through the most heavily treed area and it would completely destroy the habitat of wildlife that have called this home for more years than the City itself.. Anytime construction takes down forest trees, they kill probably hundreds of animals that can't escape their destruction.

    Thank you


    Friday, February 9 Report this

  • MartyKenney

    I love the idea of making an extension of e-street up to Cleveland! And, it seems dumb to cut down the forested areas when the state owns barren land directly in line with e street. The previous proposal of going straight up and landing the new “viaduct” right in front of Obee CU would save so much time for someone trying to get on HWY 101 from Cleveland (a route I do every day). month after month the traffic backup at Cleveland and north st as well as capital blvd gets worse and worse, not to mention the super dangerous left turn from Custer onto Boston which takes you over an aging bridge next to the brewery…

    To me the road extension and roundabouts are a no-brainer, but can we please find a route that doesn’t cut down mature forest???

    Friday, February 9 Report this

  • jimlazar

    From a traffic management perspective, this is a desirable project. The tangled mess of Cleveland/North/Capitol/Custer needs some help, and this is a logical improvement.

    But the cost of over $50 million certainly makes me gulp. That's more than Olympia spend for the new 4th Avenue Bridge, rebuilt after the Nisqually earthquake. It's more than the new (ugly) Olympia City Hall.

    I agree that if a route is available that avoids cutting a mature forest, that's better.

    Finally I'll note that Tumwater is undertaking this project, even though they estimate that 80% of the traffic using it originates outside of Tumwater. That's a case for regional transportation impact fees, so that growth that occurs in Olympia or Thurston County which imposes costs on Tumwater is charged the cost of the relevant impacts. Olympia recently scrapped the Log Cabin Road extension, a project that would have mostly served Lacey residents; the unfair apportionment of costs was one contributing factor to the abandonment.

    Tell your legislators that growth must pay for growth. They need to adopt statewide transportation impact fees on new construction, to pay the costs of road improvements wherever they are needed, regardless of what jurisdiction the building occurs in. Otherwise the rest of us bear the costs of growth, either through more congested roads or through higher taxes. Or both.

    Saturday, February 10 Report this

  • 52237123abc

    Residents beware! City of Tumwater has Informational Open Houses to get residents input but it’s all for show! Residents in the area of the proposed Operations and Maintenance on 79th have been to numerous meetings opposing this construction met with no concern for the thousands of residents it will affect.

    Good luck!

    Monday, February 12 Report this