Bridge over troubled traffic

New interchange should help ease Mukilteo gridlock


Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — Drivers trying to get into or out of Mukilteo should find the drive a bit easier starting today.

Weather permitting, a long-planned interchange will open at the intersection of Highways 99 and 525, allowing Highway 525 drivers to cruise to I-5 or I-405 without having to turn onto Highway 99.

But first, the Mukilteo Speedway portion of Highway 525 will close between Lincoln Way and Beverly Park Road, between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. today, so crews can paint traffic stripes.

The centerpiece of the $25.3 million interchange project is an overpass that connects the Mukilteo Speedway portion of Highway 525 west of Highway 99 to 525 east of it. The idea is to put some speed back into the Speedway, as well as to reduce congestion on Highway 99, said project engineer Pat McCormick of the state Department of Transportation.

Drivers on Highway 525 will no longer have to turn south onto Highway 99 to reach the part of 525 that leads to the freeways. Instead, they can soar right over 99 on the new overpass.

The project also adds onramps and offramps connecting Highway 99 and Highway 525. Two traffic lights that used to regulate the intersection, slowing traffic, will be eliminated, McCormick said.

Drivers familiar with the intersection praised the addition.

"Traffic backs up so much. This is going to help out a lot," said Allen Kilwien, an employee of an Albertson’s Food Center on Mukilteo Speedway.

Kilwien, who said he drove through the old intersection at least twice a week, said traffic on the two-lane Highway 525 would often back up so far that drivers couldn’t even reach turn lanes onto Highway 99.

The latest traffic project won’t end traffic headaches for Highway 525 drivers, but it should help, said Claudia Cornish, spokeswoman for the Transportation Department.

Much more remains to be done, including a pair of projects to widen Highway 525 from two lanes to four between Paine Field Boulevard and I-5. The widening should be done by 2004, Cornish said.

Engineers had planned to open the overpass and a widened 525 at the same time, but the latter project was delayed because of budget cuts brought on by the passage of Initiative 695, Cornish said.

Drivers on the new overpass may note that only two lanes will be open, one in each direction, though the structure clearly has room for four lanes. That’s because the highway on both sides of the structure continues to be two lanes.

Randy Holmberg of Mukilteo said the changes to 525 can’t come soon enough, though they will bring construction delays.

"In the long run, when they get everything done down to the ferry dock, everything will work just fine, but the two to three years in between will test the patience of everyone using that road," Holmberg said.

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