Plans to provide relief for Highway 9 congestion in Clearview

CLEARVIEW — New lanes, changes in red-light timing and an extended turn lane are being considered to ease traffic on Highway 9 south of Snohomish.

The state Department of Transportation has three proposals to reduce backups on the three-mile stretch between 176th Street SE and Highway 96. None would be a long-term fix, WSDOT spokeswoman Kris Olsen said.

“This is going to provide limited congestion relief, but we’re not going to solve it until we can widen (the highway),” she said.

An open house is scheduled for Wednesday to gather public feedback on the possible projects. It’s set from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Glacier Peak High School, 7401 144th Place SE.

Eventually, the goal is to widen the highway from three lanes to four through Clearview. There would be a raised center median with marked U-turn locations. Currently, that stretch has one lane going north and two south.

Since 2000, the state has put nearly $300 million toward improving traffic and safety on Highway 9, which connects a number of once-rural communities that now are suburbs. The highway already has been widened south and north of Clearview, leaving those three miles as the “missing link,” according to WSDOT.

The state has set aside money for design and right-of-way, but not for construction. The entire project is expected to cost $67 million, and $50 million of that still is needed, Olsen said. There’s no timeline for the widening.

However, one of three short-term projects could be done in the next few years, she said. Costs range from $1.2 million to $3 million, which would be pulled from right-of-way funds.

Two options involve adding a second northbound lane along part of the stretch. The start date for either would be summer 2018.

One proposal would add a lane from 176th to 164th streets, pushing back the point where drivers merge from two lanes to one, Olsen said. Traffic tends to be lighter farther north. Workers would remove left turn lanes at 168th Street, making the intersection right turn only.

A second possibility would add a lane from 168th to 156th streets. Northbound drivers would merge from two lanes to one at 176th, then have two lanes at 168th before a second merge at 156th. Workers would not remove left turn lanes.

“It would create somewhat of an hourglass effect, and the second merge could create some frustrations for drivers,” Olsen said.

The third option would change red-light timings and could be done this year. Currently, drivers on 164th Street at its intersection with the highway get two green light shifts. Eastbound traffic is stopped while westbound traffic has a green light, and vice versa. WSDOT has proposed making the light green for both directions on 164th at the same time. Traffic on the highway would be controlled by a red light then.

WSDOT found that during peak hours, about 150 drivers turn left onto the highway off 164th while five go straight through the intersection. Left turns would not have to wait much, Olsen said. The result would be fewer green lights for 164th Street and more green lights on Highway 9. Left turn lanes could be added on 164th Street as soon as this summer.

No matter which option is chosen, WSDOT plans to lengthen the northbound left turn lane from Highway 9 onto Cathcart Way by 180 feet, hopefully reducing how often cars waiting to turn block the main highway.

As rural areas along Highway 9 are developed into suburbs, traffic is expected to increase, Olsen said. More than 25,000 cars use the highway through Clearview each day.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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