Plenty of drivers have white-knuckled the turn from Avenue D or Bickford Avenue onto Highway 9 in Snohomish.
Others among the 17,000 vehicles on this stretch of the highway surely avoid the intersection if at all possible, and for good reason.
The two city streets have 25 mph speed limits and stop signs approaching the 55 mph two-lane highway.
Only right turns from Avenue D and Bickford to the highway are allowed because of the danger presented when drivers turn left and must cross both highway lanes.
Northbound highway traffic zips around a curve and under the bridge overpass for Bickford. It can make for a split-second decision for drivers trying to get onto the highway.
“The purpose really is to reduce the risk of collisions there,” spokesman Tony Black said.
The state hired Granite Construction Company to build the roundabout. Work started earlier this month and is expected to be finished in September, though the traffic circle itself could be in place by early June.
Warning signs will urge drivers to enter the 97-foot-wide roundabout at 15 mph. It will have only one lane, and the state is building a right turn pocket for northbound traffic onto Avenue D.
WSDOT has had the $4.3 million project on its to-do list since the Legislature passed the Connecting Washington transportation package in 2015.
There were 31 crashes at the intersection between 2011 and 2015. Three of those killed someone, and about half had an injury.
“From what I’ve heard people still try to make that left turn or other movements they shouldn’t be (making) and then there are accidents,” Snohomish city engineer Yosh Monzaki said.
Slowing Highway 9 traffic through the intersection should make it easier for drivers to get on or off the highway.
The state isn’t marking the new roundabout with crosswalks because there aren’t sidewalks leading to the highway from the city streets.
But the raised island between lanes will have a cut-through area for pedestrians who try to cross the highway. Small shrubs and trees will be planted in the center island as well.
Roundabouts can be more harrowing for pedestrians, especially those with disabilities, Disability Mobility Initiative director Anna Zivarts told The Daily Herald. Signals help control traffic and tell pedestrians who can’t see when it’s safe to cross.
The nearest signalized intersection to get across Highway 9 is at 30th Street SE, 1 mile away.
There aren’t great options for people who want to roll or stroll on Bickford across Highway 9.
The Bickford Avenue bridge has shoulders on either side of the two travel lanes. Only a painted stripe separates it from vehicles. It’s a dicey span for someone in a wheelchair to cross.
“It’s narrow there,” said Monzaki, who estimated the shoulders are about 3 feet wide. “It’s not like a sidewalk.”
The city is starting to think about how to improve pedestrian access across the highway. If the state, which owns the Bickford Avenue bridge over Highway 9, ever replaces it, the city could ask for grade-separated sidewalks to be included in its design and construction.
So far, that’s not being actively considered.
Another option is the city could ask the state to decommission the Bickford bridge for motor vehicles, and use it for cycling and pedestrian access.
Or the city could build its own bridge, an expensive capital project that would have ongoing maintenance costs, Monzaki told the Snohomish City Council at its May 3 meeting.
“Then we’re in the business of maintaining a bridge,” he said.
Once the roundabout is built, drivers can expect slightly longer travel times through the intersection. WSDOT estimates northbound travelers could see another 5 seconds in the morning and 60 seconds in the afternoon; and southbound travelers another 6 seconds in the morning and 25 seconds in the afternoon.
Staff will monitor traffic data to evaluate the effects of the roundabout on city streets, Monzaki said.
“It’ll be interesting to see after it’s constructed how the traffic patterns are,” he said.
Building the roundabout requires a closure of the northbound lane between Second Street and 30th Street. It’s scheduled for 8 p.m. May 31 through 5 a.m. June 6 and depends on the weather.
The southbound lane will open 5 a.m. June 1 to 8 p.m. June 3.
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