Drivers heading north on Highway 9 line up south of the light at 30th Street on Friday in Snohomish. Congestion prompted the Washington State Department of Transportation to make several changes. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Drivers heading north on Highway 9 line up south of the light at 30th Street on Friday in Snohomish. Congestion prompted the Washington State Department of Transportation to make several changes. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

No quick solutions to Highway 9 commute through Snohomish

Some drivers try shortcuts that frustrate neighbors and add to the gridlock in the area.

The smell of fried food and grilled burgers hangs in the air, wafting out from the exhaust fans at King Charley’s Drive-In.

It’s a Snohomish County classic for fast bites and thick shakes along Highway 9 and 30th Street/John Jump Road.

Nearby, a different kind of exhaust spews from an annual daily average of 19,000 vehicles creeping and idling along Highway 9 in Snohomish during the morning and afternoon commutes.

Backups can cause drivers to try circumventing the north-south congestion via a circuitous route to 30th Street and then back on the highway. People who live in the area say that path probably doesn’t save much time, if any, and dumps more vehicles than the east-west road was meant to handle.

Clara Heirman, a longtime Snohomish resident, is frustrated with the excessive vehicles and drivers trying to take shortcuts, sometimes dangerously.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “I nearly got hit twice (by) people running the red light. It’s just a mess.”

From 30th Street, drivers wait Friday in the intersection to head north on Highway 9 in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

From 30th Street, drivers wait Friday in the intersection to head north on Highway 9 in Snohomish. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Wendy Ermence Olin, another Snohomish resident, asked The Daily Herald about the intersection’s long waits, “several light cycles” during busy commute times, to turn left onto Highway 9.

“Isn’t there a way to adjust the lights to control the backup that keeps drivers from turning left even on a green arrow?” she wrote. “I’m sure I’m not the only frustrated driver facing this problem!”

The intersection is a known traffic chokepoint for the Washington State Department of Transportation staff. Backups and delays are common during peak periods because of the sheer volume of vehicles between 30th Street and the ramps at U.S. 2, WSDOT spokesman Jordan Longacre wrote in an email.

“The eastbound left and northbound through lane are the two competing movements that experiences the most delay for users,” he wrote. “For comparison, the northbound movement can take up to three cycles to clear the intersection and, similarly, the eastbound left turn can take two to three.”

Heirman is worried that drivers bypass Highway 9 traffic via 99th Avenue SE/Lake Avenue and turn onto the highway. She wants right turns to Highway 9 north restricted during the afternoon commute to keep people from looping off and back to the highway.

WSDOT has made a lot of changes to improve traffic flow through the U.S. 2 exchange, but prohibiting turns hasn’t been part of the package.

The state adjusted signal timing between the three connected signals at 30th Street and eastbound and westbound U.S. 2 ramps; installed flashing yellow arrows for the eastbound and westbound left turns, as well as the northbound and southbound left turns; added 250 feet to the eastbound left turn lane; and added a southbound right-turn drop lane.

Northbound Highway 9 traffic like this Friday afternoon led the state to change signal timing and lengthen turn lanes to alleviate some of the congestion. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Northbound Highway 9 traffic like this Friday afternoon led the state to change signal timing and lengthen turn lanes to alleviate some of the congestion. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A “Prepare to stop when flashing” sign lights up to alert northbound drivers of upcoming slowdowns caused by the traffic signal at 30th Street changing. It helps reduce rear-end crashes, Longacre wrote.

Where the highways meet, WSDOT added a left flashing yellow arrow to allow more vehicles at peak periods to drive onto eastbound U.S. 2. Highway 9 northbound drivers can reach westbound U.S. 2 with a flashing yellow arrow for left turns, as well.

“WSDOT will continue to monitor these improvements to determine their effectiveness and if further adjustments need to be made,” Longacre wrote. “Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for this area and it will remain highly congested during peak periods. Much of the demand is related to growth in the area and limited transportation options for people to travel to where they want to be. Both WSDOT and the county will continue to look for additional opportunities as funding and resources allow.”

For now, that probably means sitting tight and enjoying the smells, if not the real deal, from King Charley’s.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An emergency responder uses a line to navigate the steep slope along a Forest Service road where seven people were injured Saturday when a vehicle went off the road near the Boulder River trailhead west of Darrington. (Darrington Fire District)
7 hurt in crash off cliff west of Darrington; 1 airlfited

A vehicle crashed on a forest service road near Boulder River, leading to a major rescue operation.

The aftermath of a fire that damaged a unit at the Villas at Lakewood apartment complex in Marysville on Saturday. (Marysville Fire District)
2 families displaced by Marysville apartment fire

Nobody was injured when the fire broke out Saturday morning on 27th Avenue NE.

Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

Kevin Gallagher (from the Snohomish County Official Local Voters’ Pamphlet November 2, 2021 General Election)
Kevin Gallagher, a Marysville City Council candidate, dies

Kevin Gallagher, 52, died at home of natural causes. He was challenging incumbent Councilmember Tom King.

Clouds hover over the waters off Everett's western edge Monday morning. (Sue Misao / The Herald)
Get ready for La Niña and a soggy winter in Snohomish County

After a hot, dry summer, Washington feels like Washington again. Damp. Gray. Normal.

Downtown Coupeville on Whidbey Island, March 2021. (Harry Anderson)
Whidbey Island real estate prices continue to climb

Despite a slight lull in August and September, it continues to be a seller’s market on Whidbey.

Gold Bar man airlifted after trying to start fire with gas

The man suffered severe burns after he used gasoline to start a fire in his yard.

Another housing unit at Monroe prison targeted for closure

A corrections leader says 502 workers could lose their jobs if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID by Monday.

Mill Creek Police at the scene of a fatal car accident on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (Mill Creek Police)
Police investigating Mill Creek collision where man died

A stretch of 35th Ave SE was expected to be closed for a few hours Friday night.

Most Read