Gregoire to take close look at U.S. 2

Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to tour U.S. 2 between Snohomish and Sultan on Tuesday and meet with people in the Skykomish Valley who have longed for improvements to the dangerous and congested highway.

The governor intends to see the highway’s problems for herself and discuss solutions with the U.S. 2 Safety Coalition for the first time. The grass-roots group of residents, officials and business people has fought to make their highway safer.

“We want to make sure everyone is aware of our efforts,” said Fred Walser, Sultan’s former police chief, who leads the coalition. “The fact that the governor is taking time out of her busy schedule to visit here is indicative of that.”

Gregoire is set to start touring the highway at 2 p.m. in Snohomish and have a meeting with the coalition in Sultan. Then, the meeting is expected to move to the new YMCA family center in Monroe, where about 40 people, including local business owners, will discuss the highway with the governor, said Neil Watkins, executive director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s so important for the Monroe business community,” Watkins said Friday.

Over the last eight years, 45 people have died in accidents on U.S. 2 between Snohomish and Stevens Pass. Of those fatalities, 15 occurred in crossover crashes.

During the tour, Gregoire will learn about improvement projects proposed on U.S. 2. The state is expected to release a $1.3 million safety study on the highway later this month. State engineers estimate that overall improvements on U.S. 2 would cost more than $1 billion.

The Legislature this year set aside $731,000 to add center-line rumble strips divots that alert drivers when straying into the oncoming lane on U.S. 2 between east of Monroe and Stevens Pass.

The state plans to spend about $17 million over the next two years on guardrail, intersection and slope stabilization projects on the highway, according to the transportation department.

Snohomish County has pledged $1.5 million to match funds for U.S. 2 projects.

But no money has been secured for major projects recommended in the study. Those projects include expanding the highway from two to four lanes between Snohomish and west of Monroe, and between east of Monroe and Sultan. The study also suggests building a new interchange at Bickford Avenue on the highway in Snohomish to improve traffic safety and flow at the busy intersection, and creating a bypass around Monroe.

The coalition’s top priority is the Monroe bypass, Walser said.

A portion of the bypass worth $40 million is expected to be included in a list of transportation projects proposed by the Regional Transportation Investment District.

Voters in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties on Nov. 6 are being asked to approve the three-county road and transit package which includes the projects.

The bypass is expected to improve traffic through Monroe, a growing city of about 16,000 people. The highway has five lanes in the city, but traffic often goes bumper to bumper.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or

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