Aerial view of 14th Ave. extension looking north. (Snohomish County Public Works)

Aerial view of 14th Ave. extension looking north. (Snohomish County Public Works)

Public outcry halts Brier-area road extension plan

The Snohomish County Council delayed a vote on the project amid traffic and environmental concerns.

EVERETT — The Snohomish County Council postponed a decision on a proposed road extension near Brier this week after about 100 people inundated the legislative office with objections that the new segment would destroy wetlands and disrupt surrounding neighborhoods.

The project would extend 14th Avenue West from 220th Street SW to Locust Way, adding a new arterial for traffic between Lynnwood and Brier.

On Wednesday, the council voted unanimously to get more information before approving a right-of-way plan that would allow county staff to begin obtaining land rights needed for the extension. The project is tentatively scheduled for construction in 2027, according to county Public Works Deputy Director Doug McCormick.

Residents and environmental activists say the new segment of road is unnecessary and expensive. The extension would also weaken the watershed and redirect traffic through what is now a quiet neighborhood where streets are used freely by pedestrians, cyclists and children at play.

“It would absolutely turn our lives upside down, as with the lives of other neighbors here in our cul-de-sac and in the neighborhood,” Anthony Gabriel, who lives along the proposed extension route, told the council on Wednesday.

His kids — ages 10, 8 and 6 — are often outside playing basketball and laser tag, he said.

“We’re real people who would be significantly impacted by this project,” Gabriel said.

Councilman Jared Mead, whose district includes the project site, asked that the council hold off “indefinitely” on approving the right-of-way plan until the county is able to address concerns of the community.

The measure was referred back to the council’s Public Works Committee for further discussion.

“I want to express support and appreciation to the public for their comments and sharing their concerns,” Councilwoman Megan Dunn said Wednesday. “I support taking the time to reconsider this project. I think it’s a good idea to kind of put the brakes on this and review more of the data and come back with a new plan, or a changed plan, or a better understanding of long-term impacts.”

The project was first identified in the 1980s as work that could be necessary to accommodate future growth, McCormick said. When the county updated its comprehensive plan in 2015, modeling studies suggested that traffic will increase enough by 2035 to support the new segment.

The extended road would be two or three lanes wide, flanked with bike lanes, curbs, gutters and sidewalks. A roundabout would be built at 14th Avenue W and Locust Way.

The entire project, including some drainage improvements, would cost nearly $15 million. However, county officials don’t yet know where that money would come from.

County staff have estimated right-of-way acquisition costs at about $3.2 million. It will likely be less than that, though, McCormick said. He pegged the acquisition costs at about $630,000, plus another $925,000 to acquire land for mitigation measures meant to offset the project’s impact on wetlands.

Critics have pointed out that the mitigation sites being considered are not in the same drainage basin as the new road would be.

Several streams cross below the proposed extension route and drain into nearby Swamp Creek, which has historically served as a salmon-spawning stream.

“Unfortunately due to poor land use decisions, those salmon runs are just hanging on,” Tom Murdoch, an ecologist who founded the local nonprofit Adopt A Stream Foundation, told the County Council.

He called the extension “another example of a poorly planned project.”

Opponents also worry that the destruction of wetlands would increase runoff into Swamp Creek, leading to water quality issues and flooding problems downstream.

The city of Kenmore, at the bottom of the Swamp Creek basin, petitioned the county to reconsider the project for those reasons.

“While Kenmore has a small fraction of the Swamp Creek basin at the terminus of Swamp Creek, it has had to take numerous and costly actions to address discharge and water quality issues as a result of upstream development impacts,” Kenmore City Attorney Dawn Reitan said in a Tuesday letter to the council.

“An example of such upstream development includes the proposed ROW Extension Project, which would destroy a large forested headwater wetland adjacent to Swamp Creek, negatively impacting its tributaries,” Reitan wrote.

The county will assess the environmental impact of the project, as required by the State Environmental Policy Act, McCormick said. That process will include public meetings.

“Having the right-of-way plan approved by council is just a step in the process moving forward,” he said.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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