Meetings seek input on fixes to Highways 9, 204 interchange

LAKE STEVENS — Transportation engineers are seeking feedback on five ideas to transform the intersection of Highways 9 and 204, near the Frontier Village shopping center.

It’s a choke point along the busy Highway 9 corridor. Upwards of 30,000 vehicles pass through daily, heading north. Another 20,000-plus go south.

An open house to review the ideas is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Hillcrest Elementary School, 9315 4th St. SE. It’s the second of three such meetings. The first was in October and generated more than 100 comments. The third is planned in July. By then, engineers aim to have a single plan and round up final thoughts.

Five designs are being considered and have been shared with city leaders. The end design may add, combine or remove features, said Cathy George, engineering manager for the state Department of Transportation.

The $69.5 million project landed state funding in 2015. Construction is budgeted at nearly $50 million, with the rest going toward engineering, design and purchasing right-of-way. Work could start by 2019.

One option is what George calls a “barebones alternative.” It would close at least part of the frontage road — 92nd Avenue NE and a stretch of Vernon Road — sandwiched between Frontier Village and Highway 9. The road leading into the shopping center would be updated so traffic enters and exits at the same point, with a new road about halfway across the parking area where cars can turn north or south.

The other four options would involve lowering or raising some lanes of the highways.

One proposes a lane for traffic turning north onto Highway 9 from eastbound 204 that would go under Highway 9, passing through a short tunnel before merging.

Three possibilities would have Highway 9 run under Highway 204 at the intersection. Two suggest navigating between the highways via a roundabout connected to on- and offramps. One of those also adds roundabouts at Highway 9’s intersections with 4th Street NE and Vernon Road. The third changes the merge points to a diamond interchange, with signals at the ramps instead of roundabouts.

All options create the ability to take a right on and off of 4th Street NE at Highway 9, and close at least a portion of the frontage road. Nothing is final, George said.

Bob Eaton runs the Chevron gas station and convenience store near Frontier Village. He worries closing the frontage road would spell the end of his and other businesses. It also would route more traffic into a congested shopping center.

“That seems really inefficient,” he said. “Why are you shutting down roads?”

There could be simpler solutions, Eaton said. More signs so drivers can get in the correct lane early on and find their way easily could lessen congestion, he said, as would better timed green lights.

“It could be improved, but not the way they’re doing it,” he said. “This thing is going to be permanent … It’s going to be great for some businesses, but it’s on the backs of commuters.”

He wishes there had been more outreach, and sooner. He plans to attend the meeting Thursday and urges others to, as well.

Mayor John Spencer has been impressed by the work so far but says there are issues that need to be addressed, among them the effect to businesses on the frontage road.

“Anybody who has looked at the plan has asked, ‘How is this gonna work?’ ” he said.

He hopes a mix-and-match of designs can create a solution. He doubts the intersection will land so much funding again, so it has to be done right.

“It’s become a pivot point for local traffic and a mess for commuter traffic,” he said. “To try to untangle that isn’t easy.”

A committee reviewed ideas before the open house. Members include city and county leaders or staff, and representatives from the chamber of commerce, Community Transit and Department of Transportation. The property management company for Frontier Village and business owners at Pioneer Square and Trestle Station also were part of the group, as were staff from the Cascade Bicycle Club, Washington Trucking Association and Boeing, according to city documents.

“We are definitely looking for input on things people like, things they don’t like, so we can modify these designs,” George said. “The main thing was to have some alternatives so we can start.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

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