172nd Street bridge is a go

At long last, let the bridge be built.

The last pile of cash needed for a new I-5 overpass on 172nd Street NE in Smokey Point fell into place Friday. Construction on the $9 million bridge is now expected to begin in four to six weeks.

Supporters of a wider bridge were sent scrambling about six weeks ago when the lowest bid for the project came in $2 million higher than expected.

Both Arlington and Marysville view widening the bridge as crucial to improving response to police and fire emergencies and to accommodating business growth.

The current two-lane bridge constricts traffic and creates delays when drivers try to get on and off the freeway during rush hour. A six-lane bridge is expected to alleviate the congestion until surrounding roads can be rebuilt and expanded sometime in the future.

“This project needed to go ahead, and it needed to go now,” said Steve Gorcester, executive director of the state Transportation Improvement Board.

His agency on Friday kicked in the remaining money that was needed when it agreed to raise its contribution from $3 million to $3.7 million. The board uses state gasoline tax revenue to fund transportation projects.

In recent weeks, Arlington, Marysville, the state Department of Transportation and Congress all agreed to increase the amount they are contributing as well.

The bridge is key to the area’s growth, said Becky Foster, co-chairwoman of a group of business owners and community leaders who led the bid to fund the new bridge.

“We have water, sewer, flat land,” Foster said. “We’re getting noticed. We’re ready to go.”

Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall’s reaction to the news was straightforward.

“Hot damn!” he said. “Let’s get this thing moving. I’m ready for the groundbreaking.”

Arlington City Council member Sally Lien said she was glad that fight is finally over. The project faced many challenges, and higher-than-anticipated bids were just one of the problems.

“It’s just been such a vast ordeal,” Lien said. “We’ve pretty well slowed down building anything out there in Smokey Point and at the west end of the (Arlington) airport.”

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said he was relieved that everything came together without having to put the project out to bid again, which could have delayed the project for months.

“Just weeks ago, Marysville and Arlington both reached deep into their pockets and invested more dollars into the 172nd Street overpass,” he said.

“Now that the state has filled the final funding gap, we can move forward on this critical transportation project that will bolster economic growth and create jobs in northern Snohomish County.”

Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or lvelush@ heraldnet.com.

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