Arlington cancels rate hike, eliminates left turns from busy lot

ARLINGTON — The City Council has decided to cancel a planned rate hike and eliminate left turns at a busy spot on Highway 531.

On Tuesday, the council passed two ordinances, one related to finances and another to traffic.

Council members voted for the fifth time not to increase utility rates. The city’s utility fund has a built-in annual rate increase, but leaders have chosen to cancel it each year since 2013.

Between 2010 and 2013, the base utility rate increased from about $57 for a residential customer to about $70. The rate has stayed at $70.15 since.

At the same meeting, the council voted in favor of a change for Highway 531, also known as 172nd Street NE, in hopes of improving safety and traffic flow.

The city has worked with the state Department of Transportation to prohibit left turns in and out of the Weston High School and Stillaguamish Athletic Club parking areas. The parking lots are served by the same driveway in the 4400 block of the highway.

There is no left turn lane at that point on the two-lane road. Between 2011 and 2016, there were more than 80 crashes reported there, according to the city.

The council’s vote paves the way for the state to put up signs prohibiting left turns. The signs should be up by early February.

In 2009, the city built an access road from the athletic club and high school parking areas to Airport Boulevard, also called 51st Avenue NE. Drivers can turn either direction from Airport Boulevard onto Highway 531 at an intersection with a stoplight.

Highway 531 is expected to be widened to four lanes from 43rd Avenue NE to 67th Avenue NE in the Smokey Point area. Work won’t start until at least 2019. The council unanimously approved the end of left turns at the athletic club and school in hopes of making the road safer and traffic smoother in the meantime, according to a city news release.

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