State roads get $492 million in federal aid

Hilra Nelson of Everett writes: Regarding the recent item on grooves on I-5 in north Snohomish County, I couldn’t believe how bad that road really was until I drove my motor home up to Mount Vernon and could hardly control it.

I’m sure everyone knows the biggest cause of the grooves is over use of the freeway systems with little or no maintenance. Another big cause is studded snow tires on dry concrete. Most other states have banned those tires altogether because of the problems they cause wearing out the road. I’ve seen people still driving with them around here in late April and early May!

I’m curious about federal money for freeway repairs. In 2009, I traveled as far as Maine and back and in every state there were roads being resurfaced with federal grants. This was a government effort to help the states with repair of the freeways and put people back to work — everywhere but Washington, that is. Why is that?

In 2009, there were articles in the paper and on TV almost every day about federal money being available. What happened to Washington’s money for road repairs? Every day in this state, you read (or hear) that we need money for roads but when you look around, you can’t see any of what’s already been collected, being spent on the roads. How come?

Bronlea Mishler, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: Washington received $492 million for road repair and “shovel-ready” transportation projects starting in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus.

Statewide, we received funding to complete 51 projects; on a local level, counties and cities received funding to complete another 168 projects. We have a detailed list of stimulus projects completed by the transportation department and by cities and counties across the state on our website at

The transportation department receives money every two years from the Legislature for transportation projects. That money comes from state and federal gas taxes, and gets invested throughout the state for projects ranging from paving to intersection improvements to new highway lanes. A task force created by Gov. Chris Gregoire in 2011 estimated that it would take another $300 million each year to keep our highways in good condition; that year our department received $3.5 million to fix the most critical problems. To find out where we’re investing in transportation projects, including repaving work, you can check our searchable project list at From there, you can search for projects by highway or county.

Studded tires are legal in Washington between Nov. 1 and March 31, though that deadline can be extended depending on the weather. The State Patrol is responsible for enforcing the deadline and ticketing drivers using studded tires after the deadline. You can read more about studded tires and how the affect pavement condition on our studded tire website at

Confusing I-5 signs

Martin Messing of Edmonds writes: In traveling from Highway 99 on 220th Street SW in Mountlake Terrace toward I-5 there is a right turn arrow sign that causes some confusion.

The right lane goes straight through or turns right for the southbound I-5 ramp. If you stay in the right outer lane you come to a right-turn arrow sign for that lane. If you want to pass over I-5 and not get on the freeway, the natural thing is to go to the inside lane.

Nearer the freeway there is a larger sign that has both a straight-ahead and right-turn arrow for the right lane. The trouble is if you are behind a truck or large SUV, in a small car you can’t see that sign until you have moved over to the center lane, which in heavy traffic causes problems. Could a straight-ahead arrow be added to the first smaller right turn arrow sign?

Janet Hall, traffic engineer for Mountlake Terrace, responds: Martin is correct that the signs for eastbound traffic on 220th Street SW approaching I-5 could be improved. The state is designing a project for I-5 that will include pavement repairs and minor safety improvements. These include updating the signs for eastbound traffic on 220th Street SW approaching I-5. Because the new signs are part of a larger project, construction will not be until late summer or early fall, 2013.

The new signs will include information regarding access to northbound and southbound I-5. The state will install a sign by the side of the road with lane information.

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