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Melissa Slager |
Published: Monday, September 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

After low in 2009, congestion returning

Drivers in the state spent 16 percent more time looking at brake lights in 2011 than they did in 2009 as congestion and traffic delay increased on state highways, according to a new report.

The state Department of Transportation's 2012 Congestion Report says traffic increased by 3 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Data for the past five years shows that 2009 had the least congestion, and since then, traffic in urban areas has increased as the economy has slightly improved and more people have returned to work, according to the report. Still, congestion in 2011 was below pre-recession levels.

The congestion report, released annually, provides analysis of 52 central Puget Sound and two Spokane-area commute routes as well as information on how transportation systems are performing statewide.

The state's strategy for addressing congestion, written into a plan titled Moving Washington, aims for building road projects in key places when funds are available while managing traffic with measures such as increasing information for travelers, tolling, ramp meters and more.

Other tidbits from the report:

•Traffic delays cost drivers and businesses approximately $780 million in lost time and fuel in 2011, about 16 percent more than the $674 million in 2009.

Despite the increase in congestion, each state resident on average drove 50 fewer miles in 2011 than in 2009, and 88 fewer miles than in 2010.

Most carpool lanes carried more people in 2011 than in 2010.

Hwy. 9 improvements

Benjamin Pfeister of Lake Stevens writes: I realize there has been much discussion about traffic on Highway 9 and that current construction in the Clearview and Maltby area should hopefully provide some relief.

I wonder, however, if there is a long-term plan to eliminate stop lights on Highway 9, especially for north- and southbound traffic. It seems like this is really the only way to keep traffic flowing on such a busy road. Building overpasses at key intersections such as Marsh Road, Maltby Road and Cathcart Way could really help daily commuters.

Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: We actually have an entire study devoted to improving the Highway 9 corridor in Snohomish County, which you can find online at

We don't currently have enough funding to widen the entire 30-mile stretch of Highway 9 in Snohomish County, but by 2017 we will have invested $350 million to pave, widen and improve several intersections.

Since 2000, we've widened Highway 9 to four lanes from Marsh Road to 176th Street SE, from 212th Street SE to Highway 522, and from Lundeen Parkway to Highway 92. We're also replacing the signal at the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 531 with a roundabout, and we're considering roundabouts to improve the crossings of Highway 9 and 84th Street NE near Marysville and Highway 9 and 32nd Street SE near Lake Stevens.

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Story tags » CommutingHighway 522Highway 531Highway 9Highway 92

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