LAKE STEVENS — The state Department of Transportation is back at the drawing board after an initial design to remodel the heavily used intersection of highways 9 and 204 was deemed too costly.
With about a dozen lanes converging at the spot, maneuvering around the Frontier Village Shopping Center can be a convoluted mess. For this driver to get from one place to another took a mix of right and left turns, with a few guesses thrown in.
“It just doesn’t work,” said John Spencer, mayor of Lake Stevens. “It’s a very complicated situation there. In many aspects it’s the central point in our town.”
“People are sick and tired of it,” he said.
Original plans called for a grade-separated interchange, with Highway 9 sitting below Highway 204. That would allow traffic to flow freely with no stop lights there on Highway 9. Construction of the $69.5 million project, funded in 2015, was supposed to start in 2019.
To place Highway 9 underneath required digging 30 feet into the ground in an area where WSDOT later learned the groundwater level was about 10 feet below the surface.
“With the groundwater table factored in, the cost of the design was about $30 million over the allotted project budget,” said Harmony Weinberg, a spokesperson for WSDOT, in an email.
Going higher isn’t an option, either.
“There are still walls and ramps that need to be built which have foundations that would have to go deep below the ground,” Weinberg said.
At an open house on March 20, which starts at 6 p.m. at Hillcrest Elementary School, WSDOT will unveil a new plan that includes four roundabouts and no traffic lights.
“This alternative proved to be the most effective at moving traffic through that area, performing similarly to the grade-separated intersection,” Weinberg said.
Roundabouts keep traffic moving and can make for safer intersections, Spencer said.
“You don’t have head-on collisions or T-bones,” he said.
The city of Lake Stevens plans to add a new road on the south end of the Frontier Village Shopping Center, which Spencer said would take some pressure off the intersection.
As WSDOT finishes the design for the intersection, the first phase of construction will start in the spring. Crews will be adding an additional southbound lane on Highway 9 south of Market Place NE.
With the redesign, Spencer predicts major work won’t begin until late 2021 or 2022.
“It’s still a long way off,” he said. “We loved to have it done a lot sooner, but we realize the situation.”
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lizzgior.
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