CHOKEPOINTS

King County crews find mystery structure under Maple Valley Highway

Oct 19, 2021, 6:40 AM | Updated: 10:56 am
Maple Valley Highway...
Crews are repairing a fish culvert along the Maple Valley Highway. (WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)
(WSDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

You never know what you are going to find when you dig in this corner of the country.

Road crews found that out over the weekend when fixing a culvert under Highway 169, better known as the Maple Valley Highway. The road is a lifeline for drivers in east King County who want to bypass Highway 18 through Auburn. It cuts a diagonal route from Maple Valley to Renton.

It was closed over the weekend to install culverts near Cedar Grove Road to help fish passage and reduce flooding from the Cedar River in heavy rains. It was supposed to open Monday morning, but workers ran into a snag.

Crews found an old wooden structure as they were excavating. Work was stopped immediately, and the state archaeologist was called to investigate. It was determined that the structure wasn’t anything of historical relevance and work was able to continue. There is still a discussion as to what the structure, which was little more than timbers, actually was.

Some people believe it was the remains of an old bridge. Others think it might be a “corduroy road,” which is the official name for a series of logs that were laid down over muddy or swampy areas to allow foot, horse, and even wagon passage in the past. We may never know for sure.

Work resumed on Sunday, but the Maple Valley Highway will be closed between Cedar Grove Road and 196th Avenue Southeast until Wednesday evening.

Rest stops closed along I-5

Now to the bathroom trouble on I-5. One thing I have noticed with all the recent driving I have been doing is how important a good rest area can be. The only reliable places I have found are gas stations because many fast food restaurants have their lobbies closed due to a lack of staff.

For drivers heading between Everett and the Canadian border and back, you’re going to really need to plan ahead. The state has closed three rest stops: south Everett, Smokey Point in Arlington, and Custer, north of Bellingham.

Two issues are at play. The first is that the Washington State Department of Transportation doesn’t have the workforce to staff or maintain the rest stops. The second is people are trashing the rest areas, which have turned into defacto homeless camps. People are staying long past the time limit, dumping trash, and vandalizing buildings. They’re even threatening what little staff the state had working at each location.

The rest areas will be closed until the end of the year and there is no guarantee they will reopen again. WSDOT is working to keep the RV pump-out station open at the northbound Smokey Point rest area, but that hasn’t been worked out.

In the meantime, plan your trips carefully.

Monorail to Kraken games

Now a note, following up on my Climate Pledge Arena 101 from last week: A lot of people have been asking me about using the monorail to get to the arena for concerts or games. See the schedule here. If you’re heading to the soft opening Tuesday for the Foo Fighters, the monorail will run until midnight.

The monorail will run until 11:30 p.m. after Kraken games.

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King County crews find mystery structure under Maple Valley Highway