County pledges money for U.S. 2

People in the Skykomish Valley seem to be getting what it will take to improve safety and traffic flow on U.S. 2: money and attention from lawmakers.

“We want to see immediate improvements on Highway 2,” Sultan Police Chief Fred Walser said.

Snohomish County on Wednesday decided to allocate $1.5 million for U.S. 2 improvements if the same amount of money is raised as a matching fund, said Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers, who represents communities along U.S. 2.

“It’s a very dangerous highway. It intersects county roads,” Somers said.

Local officials hope federal lawmakers will secure $500,000 for U.S. 2. The U.S. House on Wednesday passed a bill that includes the money, and the legislation now is headed to the Senate.

“I’m optimistic,” Monroe Mayor Donnetta Walser said.

The Walsers lead the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition. The group of local residents and officials is trying to raise money to hire a lobbyist for the 2007 state Legislature, Donnetta Walser said.

The group plans to ask state lawmakers for up to $4 million, Fred Walser said.

All the money raised would be spent to improve the highway after the state finishes a $1.3 million safety study in spring 2007.

“We want to get the ball rolling,” Somers said.

Since 1999, 41 people have died in accidents on U.S. 2, according to the state Department of Transportation. Twelve of them were killed in head-on collisions.

Meanwhile, a roads tax package that would raise $1.5 billion in the county if approved by voters in November 2007 includes no money for U.S. 2.

That lack of money angered people in east Snohomish County because U.S. 2 also received no money from major statewide gas tax increases in 2003 and 2005.

The new tax package includes more than $1 billion to widen Highway 9 and the U.S. 2 trestle between Everett and Snohomish.

“I frankly resent that,” Fred Walser said.

U.S. 2 deserves more attention and money because it’s a major interstate road across the Cascade Mountains, the first backup for I-90, he said.

Many commercial vehicles use U.S. 2, and traffic often crawls bumper to bumper, Donnetta Walser said.

“It’s not only a safety issue, but it’s an economic issue,” she said.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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