EVERETT — Licensed, insured all-terrain vehicle riders will soon be able to travel key roads between Sultan and Monroe.
The Snohomish County Council last week approved expanding a program to allow ATVs on some east-county arterials with speed limits of 35 mph or less. The new routes —Mann, Old Owen and Ben Howard roads— connect unincorporated areas between two cities that have already passed laws to legalize ATVs on some city streets.
“We believe this will provide an economic boost to our rural communities for years to come,” Chris Marsh of Granite Falls said at Wednesday’s council hearing.
Marsh spoke on behalf of the Northwest Quad Association and a local grassroots effort to promote street-legal ATV riding.
All five council members supported the move. The changes are due to take effect next month, 10 days after being signed by County Executive Dave Somers.
The County Council on Wednesday also shortened the section of Sultan Basin Road where street-legal quads and side-by-sides are allowed to ride, removing the portion above Kellogg Lake Road toward Spada Lake.
When they take effect, the new rules will be permanent, no longer the temporary pilot program approved last year. The pilot program opened stretches of Sultan Basin and Kellogg Lake roads, plus some other routes on the outskirts of Sultan.
Last week’s legislation adds a new requirement that anybody driving an ATV on a county road must carry proof of liability insurance.
Council members declined to open up additional roads in unincorporated areas near Gold Bar to link the state’s Reiter Foothills Forest with a private camping club called Gold Bar Nature Trails.
A handful of people from both sides of the issue testified during the hearing.
Deborah Chase opposed expanding on-street ATV use. Chase has lived off Ben Howard Road for 11 years and has no other route to reach home. She was frustrated that the council denied her request to hold off allowing another type of vehicle traffic before addressing speeding and other existing problems, which she said are rampant.
“I literally worry that I’m going to be hit every day,” she said.
Chase, after the hearing, also wondered how the county would prevent ATVs from straying onto adjoining roads where they’re not supposed to go.
Deputy county public works director Doug McCormick testified that traffic data show the roads being opened to street-legal ATVs “have less of an accident history than other roads of a similar classification throughout the county.”
Todd Strickler lives between Sultan and Monroe, but a couple of miles from the roads opening to street-legal ATVs. An avid rider, Strickler welcomes the change. He hopes the new road rules will benefit the community, with minimal downside for traffic.
“We have beautiful country, great places to ride if it can be opened up,” Strickler said. “I’m very sure that people would love to come and see it, and responsibly recreate with their ATVs and spend money here.”
A 2013 state law gives cities and counties the authority to allow licensed, registered, street-legal ATVs on certain roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less. Other local communities that have done so are Darrington, Granite Falls and Stanwood.
Street-legal ATVs must have features such as horns, headlights and brake lights. That law refers to “wheeled all-terrain vehicles,” or WATVs for short. People need to have a valid driver’s license to use them on public roads.