OLYMPIA — In search of remedies to worsening congestion on U.S. 2, a coalition of civic leaders hopes state lawmakers will pay for a study detailing the problems and charting a path to solutions.
Roughly two dozen people traveled to Olympia on Wednesday to meet with Democratic and Republican lawmakers whose support they sought for the $1 million study of the U.S. 2 corridor between the Port of Everett and Stevens Pass.
“We’ve had lots of attention paid to safety improvements over the years but we’ve never brought the subject of capacity to the Legislature,” said Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, who requested the funding in the supplemental state transportation budget.
Seeds for the lobbying excursion were planted at a community meeting last summer hosted by Eslick and Republican Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low, who was among the elected officials in Wednesday’s contingent.
Following the November election, Low and Sultan Mayor Russell Wiita spearheaded formation of a coalition of mayors from cities along U.S. 2, Port of Everett representatives and other civic leaders
They came to Olympia to help lawmakers better understand congestion is an ongoing frustration in their communities.
An estimated 18,000 vehicles a day travel on U.S. 2 between Highway 9 and Stevens Pass. Volumes rise, and exceed the road’s capacity, on weekends and holidays.
Most Sundays, by midday cars heading west are creeping along. It’s not unusual for bumper-to-bumper traffic on the two-lane highway to stretch from east of Gold Bar to the western edge of Sultan. There are pinch points around Monroe and points farther west.
As envisioned, the study would assess the flow of traffic along the entire stretch, pinpoint when and where gridlock is worse, and provide a perspective on various means of getting rid of bottlenecks while improving safety.
Such a study would also consider strategies for fixing culverts and protecting against environmental damage, according to materials prepared by the coalition.
Success this legislative session will be difficult.
The state faces a projected $454 million reduction in tax collections due to Initiative 976. Although the measure capping car tab costs is on hold pending a legal challenge, lawmakers and the governor intend to revise the state’s transportation budget to take into account the loss of those receipts.
“I am aware of the situation on the highway and (am) very sympathetic to the traffic challenges faced by residents of those communities,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “We have no extra money. I know we can’t fund any studies. 976 put a damper on any progress we might like to make in addressing the situation.”
Supplemental transportation budgets are expected to be released by the House and Senate around Feb. 24.
The 60-day legislative session is scheduled to end March 12.