Lynnwood plans to widen busy 196th Street

LYNNWOOD — One of south Snohomish County’s critical east-west routes is set for a transformation in the next few years.

Highway 524 stretches from the Edmonds ferry terminal through Lynnwood to Maltby. In Lynnwood, the route also known as 196th Street SW carries more than 35,000 cars a day.

The stretch slated for construction lies between I-5 and 48th Avenue W., which now has five lanes and plenty of stop-and-go congestion.

The city plans to add a lane in each direction, plus medians and wider sidewalks.

The design phase is under way and is funded by a $1.73 million federal grant, public works director Bill Franz said. Another $14 million in construction money is included in the state Senate’s transportation proposal now sent to the House for consideration. Final action on a roads package by the Legislature isn’t expected until April at the earliest.

The work on 196th is among Lynnwood’s top transportation priorities, Franz said. It’s meant to accommodate the plans for what’s being called a new City Center, and to make a better walking environment, with a boulevard-like appearance, he said. The City Center concept refers to the projected growth area between 48th Avenue W. and I-5, where up to 9.1 million square feet of development is possible in the coming years.

The idea is to break up the longer blocks popular in the 1960s and 1970s into smaller, more walkable blocks, Franz said. Think a downtown feel with businesses on the ground floor and sidewalk cafes.

Eventually, the area will include new arterials with 194th Street SW, running east-west, and 42nd Avenue W., running north-south, Franz said.

Community Transit has the City Center area in mind for another rapid transit line, too. That’s a quicker route with fewer stops like the one that runs along Highway 99. Light rail also is said to be on the way.

“We need people to be able to move through here to support the growth of our City Center and all the jobs and people who are going to locate there over the next 20 years or so,” Franz said.

Design for 196th is expected to continue into 2017, with construction set for 2018.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this story.

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