CLEARVIEW — Some semblance of relief is on the way for Highway 9 commuters near Snohomish.
The $1.6 million project will create a second northbound lane from 136th Street SE to Lowell Larimer Road. Restriping and widening of the 1,500-foot stretch of the road began May 7.
Single-lane closures are scheduled from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., Sunday through Thursday. Work is set to finish this summer.
As it exists now, Highway 9 has about a 3-mile stretch of one northbound lane between 180th Street SE and Lowell Larimer Road, also called Highway 96. Two lanes merge into one, creating a bottleneck. People who live in the area and others who drive through it have voiced their displeasure for years.
“They’re frustrated, just like we’re all frustrated with the congestion, which is what happens when you have 10,000 people moving into your county every year,” said Snohomish County Councilman Terry Ryan.
One problem beyond people stuck in their cars in traffic is that drivers are pulling off onto arterial and surface streets, such as Broadway Avenue. That takes drivers who are eager to get moving into neighborhoods and onto roads not meant for that kind of vehicle volume.
“Traffic in east (Snohomish) County is definitely the No. 1 issue,” said Snohomish County Councilman Sam Low, who lives in Lake Stevens and used to commute regularly on Highway 9. “ … Here in east county, we’re one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, and we need some help with transportation.”
The rising cost of housing could drive future residents farther north. That likely means more traffic without the transit options available in other, higher density areas.
“When you can pack all that density into the unincorporated area, there’s no infrastructure for it,” state Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, said. “We don’t have even a single bus out here in Maltby or Clearview.”
The work this week is an interim patch of a larger $77 million project to widen the highway from 176th Street SE to Highway 96. Other features of the revamping of Highway 9 include a median, U-turn locations, guardrails and red-light timing tweaks. Funding for the project’s design work and right-of-way acquisition was included in the supplemental transportation budgets passed earlier this year. But construction remains not fully funded to the tune of about $55 million, Palumbo said.
“It’s a welcome addition,” he said of the 1,500-foot widening and restriping under way. “The bigger picture issue is we need the rest of the funding.”
Finding that money could be part of future legislative sessions. Meanwhile, rush-hour traffic on Highway 9 will keep crawling.