ARLINGTON – The road through Smokey Point used to be pastoral.
The two-lane country street was a little-traveled route through the farmland that characterized Arlington’s south side.
That was before.
Now subdivisions, strip malls and traffic jams have forever changed the flavor of Smokey Point.
Development is everywhere along 172nd Street – from a proposed Wal-Mart to business parks and coffee kiosks. While buildings have sprouted up all around it, 172nd Street itself has remained relatively unchanged. The road has few left-hand turn lanes and a sporadic shoulder.
And that’s a problem for the thousands of people who use 172nd Street every day to drive to work, shopping and drive home.
In an attempt to improve traffic flow and give 172nd Street a more uniform appearance, the Arlington City Council recently approved a redesign for the street. The plan calls for the road to be widened to four-lanes between I-5 and Highway 9. Traffic roundabouts, medians, sidewalks, trees and two new side streets would also be added.
“The purpose of the (plan) is to try to create a signature street for the city,” said Arlington’s Community Development Director Brad Collins. “It’s probably going to be the major commercial arterial in the future for commercial activities, and it’s also the major entry into the city’s manufacturing and industrial employment areas.”
Because the city has not set aside any funding for the project, the plan will likely be implemented in phases. New developments and existing businesses that undergo renovations will be required to widen the road in front of their property and make the other changes required in the plan.
Some of the improvements could be funded by new tax dollars if voters in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties approve the Regional Transportation Investment District this November. However, even if the tax increase passes, the state probably won’t be ready to widen 172nd Street until 2012 or 2013, Collins said.
For Sharon Shaw, the changes can’t come soon enough.
Though she only lives three miles from her Smokey Point office, traffic on 172nd Street is so bad she sometimes opts to go miles out of her way to get home. She’ll drive through downtown Arlington and then back toward Smokey Point in order to avoid the traffic jams that clog 172nd Street during rush hour.
“It will come to pretty much a dead stop and go anywhere from 3 p.m. on,” said Shaw, executive director of the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce. “On 172nd Street you’ll see a lot of tail-end fender benders just because of the congestion.”
Greg Blunt agrees the changes are needed soon.
As president of Crown Development, he has been pursuing retail and business park developments on 80 acres of property along 172nd Street. However, he’s hesitant to begin work on the projects until the work on 172nd Street is completed.
“The problem is the design is just what it says – a design,” he said. “Finding dollars to fund the design is the key. And it’s needed now, not in 2013. So somehow we need to find the dollars to build it sooner than maybe tax dollars will allow.”
Reporter Kaitlin Manry: 425-339-3292 or email@example.com.