The Arlington resident has seen first-hand how cars backed up at the center's main entrance at 27th Avenue NE and 172nd Street have delayed shopping trips and caused headaches.
"I've been in some serious situations here at the holidays," said Schireman, 77. "You couldn't get any place with people driving across the curbs and through the parking spaces."
He experienced a much better trip Friday when he drove for the first time across the new two-lane overpass at 156th Street NE. The bridge that opened a week ago connects Smokey Point Boulevard east of the freeway with Twin Lakes Avenue and the commercial areas to the west and provides a second access point for the shopping area.
"There was no traffic on it," Schireman said. "We turned right in here and parked. It was a lot easier."
Amber Baxter, who lives in Marysville, was shopping Friday morning with her 9-year-old daughter, Lilly. Traffic can get backed up on 172nd Street at peak times, said Baxter, 32. She planned to use the new overpass for the first time to exit the shopping center.
"I didn't know it was finished," Baxter said. "That would have been convenient for us, but we went in the long way (on 172nd Street). We'll check it out."
The $13 million project is being financed by a local improvement district. Residential and commercial property owners in the district on both sides of I-5 are to cover half of the overpass expenses through assessments, while the city pays for the other half.
City officials wanted the bridge open in time for the holiday season to help alleviate some of the area's traffic woes. Doug Buell, a spokesman for the city of Marysville, said on Friday that he hasn't received any comments about the bridge, pro or con.
The bridge might help traffic flow, but earlier Black Friday store openings this year may also have helped, said Dale Tomb, who lives in Mount Vernon.
"We came in about 9:20 a.m. and it seemed like less (traffic) than normal," said Tomb, 43. "With places now opening earlier and earlier and earlier, people are probably done by 6 or 7 in the morning."
Carol Lee, who lives in Arlington, believes the bridge will have a larger effect on how shoppers travel in and out of the center as more people get accustomed to it being open.
"It will be a good thing especially for people coming from Marysville," she said. "Smokey Point has gotten to be quite the little chokehold, because traffic is so bad, but once people get used to it I think it will open up."
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; email@example.com.
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