More than 25,000 vehicles use Highway 9 through the Clearview area every day. Through one 3-mile stretch of the road, the northbound traffic merges into only one lane. A modicum of relief is planned with a second northbound lane near the intersection with Highway 96. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation)

More than 25,000 vehicles use Highway 9 through the Clearview area every day. Through one 3-mile stretch of the road, the northbound traffic merges into only one lane. A modicum of relief is planned with a second northbound lane near the intersection with Highway 96. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation)

Second northbound lane coming to Highway 9 near Snohomish

Part of Highway 9 will be widened and restriped to add a lane in the Clearview area.

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.

More than 26,000 cars use the highway through Clearview every day. Adding a northbound lane is intended to ease peak-hour congestion as it approaches the intersection with Highway 96.

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.”

Snohomish County’s population grew from about 713,000 to almost 758,000 between 2010 and 2015. The Clearview, Cathcart and Maltby areas have seen bumps in housing and population.

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.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037. Twitter @benwatanabe.

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