Building a new U.S. 2 ramp is best option

Fred Howard of Snohomish writes: Regarding the planned Bickford Avenue overpass on-ramp over U.S. 2: What’s wrong with building on-ramps from 87th Avenue SE?

This road already underpasses U.S. 2 and there is plenty of room for both ramps. It has to be cheaper.

Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: When we started looking at ways to improve the U.S. 2-Bickford intersection, the 87th Avenue underpass — located east of Bickford Avenue and west of Highway 9 — was one of the options we considered. We found that it wasn’t an effective option for several reasons.

First, we wouldn’t be able to expand an interchange at 87th in the future because it would be too close to the U.S. 2-Highway 9 interchange. Right now, the Bickford project will improve only what’s already there — an eastbound off-ramp and a westbound on-ramp. It won’t add an eastbound on-ramp or a westbound off-ramp, but those could be added in the future. We can do that at Bickford because it’s far enough away from the Highway 9 interchange.

On highways, interchanges need to be spaced a mile apart to avoid merging-related congestion. When they built I-5 back in the 1960s, there weren’t any real standards so some older exits really are right on top of each other. The underpass at 87th is too close to Highway 9 to be made into a full interchange.

Also, we would have to significantly widen and add lanes on both Bickford Avenue and 87th Avenue to handle the extra traffic. Building at 87th would require us to buy more right of way from residents and businesses.

Additionally, it wouldn’t fit in with our overall U.S. 2 route development plan, the goal of which is to build projects that we’ve worked with local jurisdictions to plan, that take into account future growth and allow for expansion of other local roads.

The current design for an overpass and right-hand on-ramp at Bickford Avenue is supported by the cities of Snohomish and Lake Stevens and by Snohomish County. We plan to award the construction contract for the $20 million project later this month and begin work this summer. You can find information on our website at <a href="http://tinyurl.com/7zeuqon

“>http://tinyurl.com/7zeuqon.

Signal timing issues

Bob DeNeui of Marsyville writes: I am inquiring why the stoplight located on Marine Drive (Fourth Avenue), on the west side of I-5 where the southbound on-ramp is also located, had its green-light sequence changed for cars headed eastbound.

There used to be two green light sequences; now there is only one. The impact is terrible. Cars back up on Marine Drive for blocks to the west, and cause intersection blockages as drivers get frustrated trying to get through. Put it back the way it was, or put a sensor on the light’s westbound turn lane so that it defaults when there are no cars turning onto the southbound onramp and allows cars to go westbound.

Mishler responds: Thanks for letting us know about the backups you’ve noticed at the I-5-Highway 528 (Fourth Avenue) intersection. Our engineers have made recent changes to the signal timing to help reduce these backups. They’ve also spoken with the owner of the nearby 76 gas station, and he has noticed shorter eastbound backups at the I-5 interchange during the past few weeks.

In response to Bob’s inquiry, our signal engineer went out to the intersection on a Friday morning last month to make another adjustment — adding five seconds of extra green time for eastbound traffic. We will continue to monitor the intersection and make additional changes if needed.

Email us at stsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts

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