Maltby Cafe’s cinnamon rolls are safe from highway project

Three proposals for a Highway 522 interchange all protect local businesses.

There are a number of options for upgrading the congested intersection of Highway 522 at Paradise Lake Road.

But whatever the decision is, let it be “cinnamon roll friendly.”

Protecting local businesses like the Maltby Café is, in fact, a goal of the planning work for reshaping the last at-grade intersection on Highway 522. Relieving congestion and reducing crashes also are key goals — considered long overdue by many frustrated commuters.

The sweet description that gives a nod to the cafe’s famous pastries was made by Snohomish County Councilman Terry Ryan during a recent public works committee meeting, where state consultants gave a presentation on options then under consideration. The six alternatives have since been narrowed down to three, though tinkering continues.

The public will get a chance to weigh in on the discussion at an open house set for Oct. 2 in Maltby.

The concepts presented will be rough sketches of how a new interchange could look. Although certainly a step above doodles, there’s still a lot of refining to be done.

“This is a starting point,” said Kris Olsen, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

One thing all three concepts share is some kind of overpass.

Diamond interchange

A diamond interchange similar to the overpass that opened in 2006 at Fales Road-Echo Lake Road is among the concepts being studied. Highway 522 would pass over Paradise Lake Road. But while it seems simple, a consulting engineer warned the tight design could cause backups on surrounding roads.

Roundabout approach

A cheaper option would keep traffic entering and exiting Highway 522 at grade at Paradise Lake Road, but would close the intersection to cross traffic with a barrier. Instead, Highway 522 would be raised farther north to pass over Maltby Road (Highway 524).

Maltby Road would then be extended east to 91st Avenue SE, becoming the main hub for traffic coming on and off Highway 522. A new elevated roundabout intersection at Yew Way would help manage traffic flow.

Hybrid diamond

A third concept is a kind of hybrid of the two. The diamond intersection would raise Maltby Road over Highway 522 and have the road curve south to meet a realigned Paradise Lake Road.

There are no cost estimates for any of the concepts, but the hybrid option would be the most expensive of the three.

Past estimates for a new interchange have ranged from $65 million to $110 million.

Other planning considerations include whether to close off access to 212th Street SE to address safety concerns at Maltby Elementary School on the east side of the highway, and whether to span railroad tracks that run parallel to the west of the highway. Having a bridge over the tracks would require a realignment of Broadway Avenue and could reduce visibility of nearby businesses.

Councilman Sam Low, whose district includes the interchange, said any barriers that could cut off businesses like the cafe would be a non-starter for him.

The opinions of those who live and drive through the area will be key, said state Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, who helped secure the $750,000 in the 2017-19 transportation budget to study improvements like the interchange concepts.

“It’s really important that we have people there,” Palumbo said. “The other part is, can we fund it?”

This is an early phase of the interchange project — which is far from shovel-ready. An additional $10 million in design funding, allocated in the 2015 Connecting Washington gas-tax package, becomes available in 2025, though local lawmakers hope to move that up. Construction has yet to be funded.

Following next week’s open house, planners hope to focus on a single recommendation. A second open house will be held in November, likely before Thanksgiving. The group is expected to submit its report to the Legislature by the end of the year.

Open house

What: A drop-in open house to discuss and share feedback with traffic engineers about conceptual design options for the Highway 522 and Paradise Lake Road intersection. No formal presentation is expected.

When: 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 2

Where: Maltby Community Club, 8711 206th St. SE, Snohomish

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