Across Snohomish County, transportation projects, plans and impacts made the news during the first eight months of the year.
This spring’s announcement that Amazon was building a new distribution center just south of the Arlington Municipal Airport immediately raised questions about the impact it would have on State Route 531, already overdue for expansion.
South of the county line, Seattle’s Northgate light rail station debuts next month. When it opens, it will affect bus routes that originate in Snohomish County and their riders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed some transportation projects or extended timelines. Light rail might not reach Everett Station until 2041, five years later than planned.
Passage of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could help fund Snohomish County’s transportation wants and needs, including the replacement of the U.S. 2 trestle between Everett and Lake Stevens. The U.S. Senate passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill in August. The House is expected to vote on the bill no later than Sept. 27.
Here are some of the top projects about to be completed, on the drawing board or awaiting funding:
Northgate light rail
Sound Transit’s Link extension to Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood opens Oct. 2 and adds three new stations: an elevated station at Northgate and two underground stations in Seattle’s University District and the Roosevelt neighborhood.
The station’s debut affects some Snohomish County bus routes and riders. Community Transit and Sound Transit will re-route some buses to the Northgate Station. There, passengers will transfer to light rail for a six-minute ride to the U District light rail station.
■ Community Transit 800-series bus routes will connect to the rail line at Northgate Station instead of going to the University District and the University of Washington.
■ Route 855 has been replaced with additional service on route 821, which also serves the Lynnwood Transit Center.
■ Sound Transit routes 511, 512 and 513, which now run between Snohomish County and Seattle, will also connect to light rail at Northgate.
■ Community Transit will add 48 trips from Northgate back to Snohomish County in the afternoon and evening. Each 800-series route will have a bus leaving Northgate every 15 minutes during the evening commute.
The transfer is expected to save passengers between 10 and 15 minutes on trips to the University of Washington — depending on where rides originate — and even more when heading to downtown Seattle, transit authorities have said.
Everett rail extension delay
Light rail could reach south Everett by 2037, a year later than initially planned, but it might not reach Everett Station downtown until 2041 — five years later than originally promised, the Sound Transit board decided in August.
When voters approved a tax measure in 2016, the plan called for trains to begin boarding at Everett Station in 2036.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the rising cost of materials and property, created a revenue gap that forced the Sound Transit board to re-evaluate the timeline.
To address the shortfall, Sound Transit Board President Kent Keel, a University Place City Council member, and King County Councilwoman Claudia Balducci put forth a proposal that partly resolves an estimated $6.5 billion funding gap for projects in the ST3 ballot package.
Under the revised plan, light rail will extend from the Lynnwood City Center station to southwest Everett, including Paine Field, by 2037, but the extension to Everett Station will be delayed until 2041. That section of track has an estimated $602 million revenue gap yet to be resolved.
With light rail’s plan assured, Snohomish County, Lynnwood and Everett can begin establishing the rail line’s path and station locations and develop station area plans for access and housing.
Highway 531 project
Highway 531, also known as 172nd Street NE, runs through the city of Arlington at Smokey Point and into east Snohomish County.
Development — including a new Amazon distribution facility under construction just south of Arlington Municipal Airport at 4620 172nd St. NE — continues to add traffic to the already-busy corridor.
The old, east-west two-lane highway averages more than 20,000 vehicles per day.
When the five-story, $355 million Amazon distribution center opens, it is expected to add between 4,000 and 4,500 daily trips along 172nd Street, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Another 10,000 daily trips are anticipated with expansion of the Cascade Industrial Center. NorthPoint Development, a private development firm, plans to erect nine buildings in the industrial center, which straddles the Marysville and Arlington city line.
WSDOT plans a briefing on the Highway 531 widening project, which extends from 43rd Avenue NE to 67th Avenue NE. The briefing will be held Sept. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Arlington City Council meeting. The meeting will be live-streamed at youtube.com/cityofarlingtonwashington and can be attended in person at 110 E. Third St.
While some street improvements in the area will be paid for by the Amazon project’s traffic mitigation fee, WSDOT is responsible for improving 172nd Street NE.
The 172nd Street improvement project has a $39.3 million budget funded by the state’s Connecting Washington transportation package, but it might not get underway until 2023 because of interruptions to other transportation work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, WSDOT officials have said.
West of the state’s projects, the city of Arlington is planning a traffic signal at Highway 531 and 40th Avenue NE. That project is estimated to cost $1.4 million and was to begin later this year or in early 2022.
Arlington is also planning a new two-lane road, 173rd Street NE, between Smokey Point Boulevard and Airport Road.
That project will happen in phases, with the first connecting from Smokey Point Boulevard to 40th Avenue NE.
Second I-405 toll lane
The state cleared a final hurdle in its bid to build another toll lane in each direction on I-405 between King and Snohomish counties.
The Federal Highway Administration issued a finding of no significant impact in July after evaluating the final environmental review.
The decision clears the way for the $600 million undertaking.
The five-mile highway expansion between Highway 522 and Highway 527 was supposed to open in 2025, but the pandemic and higher costs pushed the project out two years, WSDOT staff said.
The stretch currently averages 106,000 vehicles a day, according to state data.
Construction of the new toll lanes requires a mix of re-striping I-405 in one section and widening it the rest of the way, according to WSDOT documents. Two in-line transit stations would be built in the freeway median, as well as a new station at a revamped Highway 522 interchange.
The state plans to add traffic signals at three intersections along Highway 522 — at northbound I-405, southbound I-405 to eastbound Highway 522, and at new direct access ramps to the toll lanes.
The project also includes a direct access ramp from Highway 522 onto the express toll lanes and a partial direct access ramp at a rebuilt Highway 527 interchange.
When completed, the additional toll lanes will give people another option to drive outside the general purpose lanes and enable the future Sound Transit Stride bus rapid transit line to move through traffic faster.
Stride bus rapid transit is part of a planned 37-mile bus rapid transit system on the freeway and an eight-mile line on Highway 522.
Federal infrastructure bill
The federal infrastructure bill is expected to bring $381 million to support transportation projects across Snohomish County. Portions of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act could help fund the U.S. 2 trestle replacement and secure light rail to Everett, among other projects.
The Senate passed the bipartisan bill in August. The House is expected to vote on the bill no later than Sept. 27.
Two money sources in the bill — $36.7 billion to repair and replace bridges and $5 billion for “mega-projects” — could help redo the link between Everett and Lake Stevens.
Replacing the westbound trestle is estimated to cost over $1 billion, but securing funding through the Legislature has proven difficult.
Sound Transit, which serves King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, could get $381 million for maintenance backlogs, capital projects and to keep light rail construction to Everett and Tacoma on schedule.
Community Transit could use $89 million to expand the Swift bus rapid transit system and buy zero-emission buses, officials at the transit agency said.
Everett Transit was identified as the possible recipient of $7 million, according to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office. The money would go toward more electric buses to replace the fleet’s diesel and hybrid-diesel coaches, as well as a wireless charging station, Everett officials have said.
Everett leaders also are hopeful for bridge replacement, water and wastewater utility infrastructure funds and other transportation improvements.
Janice Podsada; email@example.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods