LAKE STEVENS — The project to widen parts of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE is intended to ease traffic flow through the area, but some who live nearby aren’t happy about it.
The makeover of the intersection and the area surrounding it eliminates a left turn from northbound Highway 9 to westbound S. Lake Stevens Road.
That’s where Marilyn Webber lives, just off the highway. When the project is done next summer, she will have to turn left at 32nd Street SE.
This is about three-quarters of a mile south of her street, and she’ll have to go nearly a mile out of her way to get home.
The turn was eliminated for safety reasons, a state official said. The Highway 9 portion of the project was designed by the state Department of Transportation.
Webber said 360 people who live in the area have signed a petition in protest.
The state, in addition to prohibiting the left turn from Highway 9 onto S. Lake Stevens Road, had originally planned to eliminate a left turn from S. Lake Stevens Road onto northbound Highway 9. Officials have since withdrawn that plan. The petition calls for both turns to remain.
Snohomish County is widening 20th Avenue SE from two lanes to five between 91st Avenue SE and S. Lake Stevens Road at the Tom Thumb grocery. S. Lake Stevens Road runs northeast-southwest and intersects with both 20th and Highway 9. From S. Lake Stevens Road to a short distance north of 20th, the state is widening Highway 9 from two lanes to five, including turn lanes.
Together, the projects cost $22.4 million.
Webber, who said she has lived in her home for more than 50 years, said turning left off Highway 9 at 32nd is not as safe as turning at S. Lake Stevens Road.
The oncoming vehicles are moving faster there because they’re farther from the light at 20th, she said, and they’re harder to see because they’re coming up a slight incline.
“There’s no way they can make that as safe as our intersection to make the left turn,” she said.
The left turn was eliminated because Highway 9 southbound is being widened to two lanes, with one being a right turn lane onto S. Lake Stevens Road, said Mike Swires, a traffic engineer for the state. Anyone turning left there would have to go across two lanes of traffic, he said.
Webber said there’s always been a right turn lane there.
“We’re turning across two lanes of traffic now, I don’t know what the difference is,” she said.
Swires said the new lane will be wider than the current configuration. The state’s portion is part of a long-range plan to improve Highway 9 all the way from the King-Snohomish County line to Arlington. Highway 9 south of the intersection eventually will be widened as well, when money becomes available, he said.
Swires said there’s no data to support the contention that the turn at 32nd is more dangerous.
“We don’t have any left-turn-related collisions at either intersection,” he said.
There’s more, Webber said. To get home after turning on 32nd, she must navigate a blind, 90-degree turn on a tight road.
She and her husband keep horses on their property. Some of her neighbors do as well, she said.
“If you’re in a pickup pulling a horse trailer, you can’t go around that 90-degree corner,” she said. “If you expect us to give up that left-turn lane, at the minimum the county needs to do something about 32nd.”
County engineer Owen Carter said he would have a safety inspector look at the road.
Swires said the state changed its mind about eliminating the left turn from S. Lake Stevens road onto Highway 9 because of the concerns of the neighbors.
“We heard from the community about the inconvenience,” he said.
Webber said she’s glad the state brought back that turn. Still, she and others plan to keep pressing the state to bring back the other one as well.
Swires said it’s not happening.
“We are trying to balance driving inconvenience with improved safety benefits along the corridor,” he said.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439, firstname.lastname@example.org.