Mudslides, washout take toll on King County road budget

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ALGONA, Wash. - Stormy weather is threatening to drain the emergency fund for road repairs in King County.

Early Wednesday, tons of mud and trees crashed down on a vacant house along the West Valley Highway.  It knocked the building right off of its foundation. 

John Asselin stopped his truck to take a look at the damage.  He called the force of the mudslide, “tremendous.” 

The Algona Hill Road was undermined and had to be shut down.  Part of the West Valley Highway is also closed. It was blocked by a mudslide two weeks ago that hasn't been cleared.

Rob Pedrini sells boats nearby. He wondered aloud, “What’s going to come down next?”

In Maple Valley, a portion of Maxwell Road is also closed after a recent washout. 

The question is, does King County have the cash to make all of these storm-related repairs? Brenda Bauer is the director of road services for King County.  She said, “We do have some funds for that but we can quickly use up all of those funds if we have a particularly difficult year.” 

King County has $2.7 million in a quick response fund this year to handle slides, sinkholes, and washouts. Bauer estimated a half-million dollars has been spent already.

If the county were to repair the Algona Hill Road, the slide area along the West Valley Highway and the washout in Maple Valley, Bauer said that would probably use the rest of the money in the emergency fund.  “If we use up all the money that we’ve set aside for emergency response, then we start cutting projects that we had planned to do.  So if we had money we were going to use to overlay a road or repair surface defects, we might cut that,”  Bauer said.

No decisions have been made yet on what roads will be restored after the most recent storms. Engineers are still assessing the damage.  With more wet weather in the forecast,  Bauer said drivers should be alert to the possibility of more landslides.