New I-5 interchange planned for Marysville

MARYSVILLE — An ambitious project to build a new freeway interchange at the south end of Marysville got a boost recently from a little-known government agency.

The state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board has pledged $5 million to the city of Marysville to help pay for construction for the interchange.

The project would allow traffic from downtown Marysville to get on or off I-5 using Highway 529. That would bypass the busy Fourth Street interchange and the railroad crossing.

The Strategic Investment Board helps fund projects that increase freight capacity or mobility in the state, or which offset the effects of those increases to communities.

City leaders hope the contribution from the board will make it easier for the city to obtain the rest of the project’s funding from the state or federal government.

So far, planning, permitting and design of the project has cost about $3 million, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said.

The city also has been working with other local governments, including Snohomish County, which contributed $500,000 to the project.

“By doing that we’ve gotten the project all the way up to the point where it’s almost shovel-ready,” Nehring said.

The board’s action comes with a deadline, however: the $5 million promise is only good through the 2019-2021 biennium, said Ashley Probart, the board’s executive director.

“It gives Marysville six years to cobble together the rest of the funding,” Probart said.

The interchange project is estimated to cost up to $40 million.

Nehring said that the ideal situation would be if the project’s entire funding were to be included in the state transportation package, and has been working with legislators to try and help that process along. So far, that hasn’t happened.

If that doesn’t come to pass, he said, there are federal options. They include TIGER Discretionary Grants. The name is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.

But going the federal route might mean that not all the construction money would be available at once, requiring the interchange project be done in phases, Nehring said.

The project would add an offramp from northbound I-5 to Highway 529, and also an onramp from southbound 529 to I-5.

That will allow traffic in Marysville’s downtown and south end to get to the freeway without having to cross the railroad tracks at Fourth Street.

Long trains passing through Marysville frequently back up traffic all the way onto the freeway and cause gridlock in town. Expected increases in oil and coal train traffic have city officials worried.

In researching solutions to that problem, the city kept coming back to the Highway 529 interchange, said Marysville Public Works director Kevin Nielsen.

“It’s one of those projects that everyone’s looking at and saying, ‘It makes sense,’?” Nielsen said.

The interchange also could help solve another issue: reducing the number of accidents on Fourth Street at the freeway and the railroad crossing.

The city of Everett has signed on to the plan. The project could greatly increase the mobility of freight coming on and off Smith Island, said Ryan Sass, Everett’s city engineer.

Trucks from Smith Island businesses heading south typically get on I-5 at East Marine View Drive, Sass said.

Marysville has spent the past year developing the plan for the interchange, which includes a required Interchange Justification Report to the Federal Highway Administration.

That report is scheduled to be completed in the coming week, Nielsen said.

When the FHA will act on the report is unknown, he added, but having more local money invested in the project should help.

“Hopefully that corresponds to a quicker time frame on review and approval,” Nielsen said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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