Is the price tag for a new U.S. 2 trestle too big?

In a question to readers about your most dreaded intersection, the three-way chokepoint where U.S. 2, Highway 204 and 20th Street all converge elicited the most groans — groans we’ve been hearing here at Street Smarts for severalyearsnow.

Angie Christy of Granite Falls commutes to work in Everett. What should take less than a half-hour often takes triple that. “Poor infrastructure (plus) drivers that are too incompetent to merge at speed (equates to a) much longer process than it should be and near-daily fender benders!”

“The merging situation onto the trestle is ridiculous,” agreed reader Dan Simenson of Lake Stevens. “And I don’t want to hear about ‘lack of budget’ and ‘studies’ being done. We as taxpayers know all about ‘lack of budget’ in our lives and we manage to figure it out, so I expect the county and state to do the same.”

Sorry, Dan. What follows is a lot about “lack of budget” and “studies.”

The state has been studying options for fixes to this side of the trestle crossing for several years now. The last upgrade to the westbound trestle was in 2007; girders were repaired, a pocket-change project.

Why no big splash?

The state Department of Transportation has ideas, and the project remains on its own list of priorities.

“I use that interchange myself quite frequently. So as a driver I certainly understand the issues out there,” said Kris Olsen, a WSDOT spokesperson.

The ultimate goal is a new three-lane westbound trestle, with each roadway that feeds the bridge getting its own lane. With a price tag that hefty — in the area of $750 million — the DOT already has broken things down into three phases.

The first phase, at over $200 million, would get the wheels rolling. “There’s been a lot of things looked at and concepts but we don’t have anything funded at this point,” Olsen said.

Current debate

Getting even $200 million, though, could be tough.

“A lot of it becomes an issue for the Legislature to determine whether that particular area — they have to balance a lot of needs, not only our area but across the state. Something this large would probably require a new revenue source,” Olsen said.

Since Olsen and I chatted about the trestle, Gov. Jay Inslee has released his proposal for new taxes on carbon emissions and capital gains to pay for fixing roads.

Then there’s tolling, the state’s latest funding darling.

Lawmakers in 2010 said the state wasn’t ready for tolling on U.S. 2. Five years later, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the proposal come up again.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are under pressure to drum up barrels of cash for education, too.

“The question is how much can the public deal with in terms of revenue, and I think you have to weigh that,” state Rep. Mike Sells said in an earlier interview. Sells sits on the House Transportation Committee and his district includes the trestle.

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