With gold-colored shovels and delivered dirt, city, county and state officials heaved scoops of earth Tuesday to kick off work to dramatically shift traffic flow in south Marysville.
They celebrated the start of a $123 million project that has three main pieces:
■ Extend the high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on northbound I-5 from Everett to Marysville;
■ Build a northbound ramp from I-5 to Highway 529, which becomes State Avenue; and
■ Build a southbound ramp from Highway 529 and State Avenue to I-5.
“As we complete these projects, mobility will improve through the region,” said Robin Mayhew, deputy administrator for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Northwest Region.
But for now, the lane closure and temporary shift just south of Ebey Slough on the highway has irritated some of the estimated 32,000 daily drivers, including Brian Johnson.
“When leaving Marysville on (Highway) 529 why on Earth do we have to go around some silly cone half roundabout deal when the straightaway is wide open, and not being worked on whatsoever? From what I can tell by the plans, there should be zero need to shut that down at all,” Johnson wrote to The Daily Herald.
WSDOT spokesman Tom Pearce said the short answer is weather.
“We needed good weather to put in the traffic shift, so we wanted to take advantage of the first opportunity,” Pearce wrote in an email. “With the shift in place, the contractor now can schedule work on the site.”
The traffic control, including the lane reduction, is expected to last about a year until spring 2024.
Crews with Guy F. Atkinson Construction needed dry weather to stripe the road, Pearce wrote. Surveying is the first step for Highway 529, then they’ll work on the permanent center barrier between each direction of I-5.
The project was proposed in 2015 as part of the Legislature’s Connecting Washington transportation package. Back then the state figured $85 million would cover it all.
But as time passed and inflation hit, costs jumped another $38 million.
There were no takers in 2020 when the state first put the project up for competitive bidding.
State Sen. June Robinson, whose district includes Everett, Marysville and Tulalip, said she remembered getting “frantic” phone calls from Marysville Mayor John Nehring when no one bid for it.
The Legislature covered the funding difference in the Move Ahead Washington transportation package passed in 2021.
In office since 2010, Nehring knew how much work and money went into preparing for the new interchange. It’s a vital route for people to avoid the railroad that runs through the city and can cut off access from and to I-5.
The city led the way in 2012 to replace a swing span bridge, the kind that rotates sideways to allow boats through, across Ebey Slough built in 1927. It also led the First Street bypass, a project that routes traffic away from the railroad crossings and connects Highway 529 and eventually I-5 with a rapidly growing area in the city’s southeast limits near Lake Stevens.
“I don’t think people know how much commuter traffic comes through Marysville,” Nehring said, referring to people who travel through his city from Arlington, Granite Falls and Lake Stevens.
Marysville alone has grown dramatically over the decades with over 72,000 residents in 2022, according to the U.S. Census.
Construction is expected to last through fall 2024, when the I-5 HOV lane and new Highway 529 ramp open.
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