Looking east toward the U.S. 2 trestle as cars begin to backup on March 1, 2018, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Looking east toward the U.S. 2 trestle as cars begin to backup on March 1, 2018, in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

A toll? More lanes? Have your say on future U.S. 2 trestle

WSDOT wants to know what people think of the existing highway link and its eventual replacement.

EVERETT — Three lanes or four?

The Washington State Department of Transportation is floating the concepts of replacing the U.S. 2 westbound trestle. Both options offer an expansion from the current mire of a pair of vehicular aisles with slim shoulders.

The plans are in the state agency’s online open house and survey, available through Oct. 16.

“What we really want to hear with these questions, honestly, is what are their opinions,” WSDOT spokesperson Kris Olsen said. ”What do they experience? What are the problems?”

The state has collected about 750 responses, she said. Department staff won’t review results until after Oct. 16.

The vital link between Everett and Lake Stevens is a weekday slog for people who cross its 3⅓ miles. A daily average of 82,000 vehicles used the U.S. 2 trestle in 2019, according to state data.

Currently the westbound trestle is two lanes from Lake Stevens to I-5. At the interchange, the right lane puts vehicles onto northbound I-5 or into Everett on Maple or Walnut streets. The left lane curves toward southbound I-5 or lets drivers continue to Maple.

“It doesn’t have enough lanes right now,” Olsen said.

The curved ramps require drivers to slow down, but that’s not the sole cause of traffic. There are just too many vehicles, which reduces space and causes deceleration. Think about a living room with 50 people in it, moving around, then everyone trying to walk out of the door that only fits one. That’s the challenge at hand.

There’s also no way for people to bike, scoot, skate or walk across U.S. 2 without a circuitous route along the eastbound trestle that bumps people off to 43rd Avenue SE, then to 51st Avenue SE, then to 20th Street SE alongside and under the trestle.

All of that asphalt, concrete and steel is getting old, too. The westbound span was built in 1968. It’s had major work over the years, including carbon-fiber wrapping about 850 steel girders and new asphalt in the past decade.

But all things must pass, and the state is eyeing to replace the westbound trestle by 2045.

Last year, a group of traffic engineers, transit experts, planners and elected representatives narrowed the concepts down to a few for the state to further consider. The replacement trestle would be built within 25 years north of the existing structure.

A new westbound U.S. 2 trestle could have either three or four lanes. Washington State Department of Transportation wants to know your trestle use and traffic concerns in an online open house and survey through Oct. 16. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

A new westbound U.S. 2 trestle could have either three or four lanes. Washington State Department of Transportation wants to know your trestle use and traffic concerns in an online open house and survey through Oct. 16. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

A three-lane concept is similar to the existing setup, with one more lane. One of those lanes becomes a short carpool/bus bypass at the I-5 interchange in Everett.

A four-lane concept includes three general purpose lanes and a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane for carpools and buses.

Either option could have a carpool lane, or a toll lane, or peak-use shoulder.

Yes, tolls are being considered to help pay for it.

About 34% of the average daily traffic from the westbound trestle enters Everett, according to the state agency.

Tom Hood, principal engineer for the city of Everett, is part of the peak weekday traffic when he drives across the trestle from Snohomish. He has noticed southbound traffic queuing in the left lane, with “lane jumpers” from the right lane cruising along and cutting in closer to the off-ramp to I-5.

“I think of it kind of like a big funnel, where the bowl is the trestle and the nozzle is that southbound ramp,” he said.

He also saw a driver circumvent the ramp by driving into Everett and using Maple Street to reach the I-5 on-ramp at Pacific Avenue. But it’s not a recommended traffic hack because it goes through three lights.

“You could actually lose time,” Hood said.

Everett hasn’t commented on the concepts in an official capacity and likely won’t until the state considers project alternatives, which is years away.

The four-lane concept could be a dramatic change for Everett because it creates a more direct ramp from U.S. 2 to Hewitt Avenue.

Everett is leading an interchange justification report for the I-5 and U.S. 2 interchange to see if and what improvements can be made. That project isn’t part of this study.

Lake Stevens has collected “trestle stories” to help illustrate to lawmakers the need for greater investment in transportation projects. In February, the Lake Stevens City Council supported the goals of the U.S. 2 Coalition, a group of cities in Snohomish County along the highway.

The state transportation department pins the trestle replacement at $1.1 billion. State Sen. Steve Hobbs, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, estimated the full rebuild of the trestle, including the revised interchange with Highway 204 and 20th Street Southeast in Lake Stevens, to cost $1.49 billion in his 10-year transportation project and funding proposal in 2019.

Tolls, similar to the 520 floating bridge and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, could help pay for the project. A 2018 state study about replacing the westbound trestle looked at tolls between $1.50 and $5.25, depending on the time and direction. A 3-cent gas tax increase was included in that study as well.

“Nothing is off the table and everything is still on the table,” Olsen said.

Take the survey

People can read the information and take the survey at bit.ly/3cRbqkH. It takes about eight minutes and is available in English, Russian and Spanish. Contact US2TrestleInfo@wsdot.wa.gov for an emailed version or other translations.

Have a question? Email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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