Why a ‘perfectly good’ U.S. 2 offramp was replaced

Sue Cozzens of Snohomish writes: Living close to the Bickford Avenue junction with U.S. 2, I watched the building of the new overpass from Bickford Avenue to the westbound highway. It will be nice to glide onto U.S. 2 instead of being stuck in the backup whenever I need to head to Everett.

However, I don’t understand why tax dollars were spent on destroying and redoing of the previous, perfectly good offramp from eastbound U.S. 2 to Bickford Avenue. It was a smooth access, while the temporary ramp installed for use during construction required slowing down from highway speeds to make a sharp, almost 90-degree turn.

Since the purpose of the work was to install an overhead onramp to westbound U.S. 2, in a completely separate area from the offramp, why was the offramp disrupted and a green belt berm destroyed?

Kris Olsen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, responds: Several factors were taken into consideration during the design of the new U.S. 2-Bickford Avenue interchange. Although the overpass itself is the centerpiece, the design needed to encompass how the overpass, the eastbound exit and Bickford Avenue would operate together, rather than as three separate entities.

First, the new overpass is actually much higher in elevation than Bickford Avenue and the old ramp. As a result, we needed to ensure the connection from Bickford Avenue onto the new overpass involved a gradual change in elevation rather than a short steep hill. To create that gradual rise, the contractor had to begin construction several hundred feet to the south of U.S. 2 and the overpass. As a result, where the old ramp became Bickford Avenue had to be buried under several feet of fill. But that’s not the only reason a new eastbound exit was necessary.

The overpass and ramps were designed with an eye to the future. It allows for the eventual construction of a new westbound U.S. 2 offramp that would connect to the overpass. If that exit is built, the overpass will be converted to two-way traffic. Drivers exiting westbound could then turn left, cross the overpass and continue to Bickford Avenue. If we’d kept the old eastbound ramp in place, it would result in an awkward and difficult merge on Bickford. By designing an overpass with standard ramp connections, it reduces the amount of construction work and funding that will be needed for a future expansion.

Phil Sherritt of Tulalip writes: I frequently travel from Everett to Monroe via U.S. 2. I noticed that the onramps to both eastbound and westbound U.S. 2 from the 88th Street SE and Highway 9 overpasses have no signs telling merging drivers that they must yield to highway traffic. There are directional signs that show the drivers that their lane merges into a single lane, but not specifically say to yield.

I have seen many instances where drivers with the right of way have to apply the brakes for others who are merging. Should yield signs be installed?

Tom Pearce, a spokesman for the transportation department, responds: Generally speaking, yield signs are installed only for a freeway merge where drivers must accelerate quickly in a short distance.

The acceleration length allows entering traffic to reach freeway speed and negotiate gaps in the freeway traffic. At the Highway 9 and 88th Street SE onramps to U.S. 2, the distances exceed the minimum requirement.

Also the state’s traffic law does not assign right-of-way responsibility at a freeway merge point. Merging is considered an equal and shared responsibility between the ramp driver and the motorists already on the freeway. Safe and efficient merging relies in large measure on driver cooperation and common sense.

People already on the freeway or highway need to be considerate of merging drivers. At both the Highway 9 and 88th Street SE ramps there are merge warning signs installed to help remind the mainline driver to adjust speed and accommodate merging traffic ahead.

The ramp driver has a role to play as well. A driver on the ramp should adjust his or her speed to match the prevailing speed of the highway traffic flow, then use a turn signal and merge into the best available gap in traffic. Drivers should be prudent, but not too timid and should not come to a stop on the ramp.

E-mail us at streetsmarts@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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