Yelm’s population has nearly tripled in the last 20 years and with increased development, new businesses, and higher density housing, its growth track shows little signs of slowing. To help improve traffic flow and downtown vitality in the midst of such change, Yelm’s City Council has green-lighted a new Downtown Transportation Strategy Plan.

To identify projects that will improve flow, vitality, connectivity, and safety for residents and visitors, the city partnered with SCJ Alliance to conduct a Downtown Corridor Study. The result: A wide scope of improvements from wayfinding signage, to sidewalk replacement and expansion, to improved walkability and business access. The plan also provides safer pedestrian crossings, additional parking, and integration of two major trail routes.

“SCJ Alliance provided amazing guidance and knowledge in the plan creation, and resulting concepts for our city,” said associate planner Tami Merriman. “This plan establishes the vision for downtown and will act as a template for what the community wants our city to look like going forward.”

While completion of the Yelm Loop project is expected to reduce regional and truck traffic in downtown Yelm, city officials believe that continued growth will likely bring traffic volumes to a similar level that it is today. To help manage continued growth, Yelm has identified a series of connected routes, permitting mini-loops to minimize traffic on Yelm Avenue. The approved transportation plan assumes that — with completion of the Yelm Loop and creation of mini-loops — additional travel lanes will not be required on Yelm Avenue.

In addition, the city has recently made many investments to public parks and civic buildings to keep up with current demand, including the redesign of Yelm City Park and relocation of Yelm City Hall. These improvements helped create a more defined civic center and will act as a catalyst for future projects, providing guidance for street design and land use decisions in the commercial core.

“One of the great pleasures in developing this plan was working with stakeholders,” said Merriman. “Their perspective, ideas, and concerns established a foundation to revitalize our downtown and created a vision that will benefit new and existing businesses by making Yelm an even more pleasant place to shop and visit.”