Monroe traffic stays in spotlight

MONROE — Nine state lawmakers who are in charge of transportation projects are set to visit Monroe on Tuesday to learn about the growing city’s traffic woes.

Three highways — U.S. 2, Highway 522 and Highway 203 — intersect in Monroe, a city of about 16,000 people. The state needs to do its part to ease traffic congestion in the city, said Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish.

Monroe’s traffic issues are common among communities in the Skykomish Valley, he said.

“The state has to look at and take care of these communities,” Kristiansen said.

Six state representatives, three state senators and staff members of the state Department Transportation are scheduled to drop by Monroe City Hall on Tuesday morning. All nine lawmakers are on the transportation committees in the Legislature.

Their visit to Monroe comes a week after Gov. Chris Gregoire took a tour on congested and dangerous U.S. 2. After her Sept. 11 visit, the governor said that the highway has “a serious safety issue” and needs to be fixed.

She also met with local officials, residents and business people and discussed Monroe’s growth-related issues.

Local officials have been calling for the state’s attention to the traffic problem, City Councilman Geoffrey Thomas said.

“We’ve got people speaking up and making a difference,” Thomas said. “We are being heard.”

On Tuesday, Monroe city staff will make a presentation explaining the city’s growth and transportation problems and explaining steps the city is taking to address them, Mayor Donnetta Walser said.

Earlier this year, Monroe released a plan to fix its notorious traffic problems over the next 23 years. The plan, the biggest of its kind that the city has ever created, lists 43 projects worth more than $40 million.

City officials believe that some of the city’s traffic problems are out of the city’s hands and need help from the state.

A key project to ease Monroe’s traffic woes is a U.S. 2 bypass around Monroe, Thomas said. A portion of the money needed for the multimillion-dollar bypass — about $40 million — is included in a list of transportation projects proposed by the Regional Transportation Investment District. Voters in Snoho­mish, King and Pierce counties on Nov. 6 will be asked to approve the three-county road and transit package.

Tuesday, Kristiansen said he’ll discuss with city officials how the state plans to improve U.S. 2.

“It’s the state’s responsibility,” Kristiansen said.

Let’s talk traffic

State lawmakers and staff are set to meet with Monroe officials to discuss transportation and growth issues from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 806 W. Main St. in Monroe. The meeting is open to the public, but there’s not a designated time for public comments. For more information, call 360-794-7400.

Reporter Yoshiaki Nohara: 425-339-3029 or ynohara@heraldnet.com.

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