Smokey Point road improvements won’t be done before industrial center

Amazon, NorthPoint are coming but the state will not begin widening Highway 531 until 2023.

ARLINGTON — The state Department of Transportation will not begin widening Highway 531 for at least two years.

Meanwhile, developments including a massive Amazon fulfillment center and the NorthPoint business development are under construction along the highway corridor.

“Where State Avenue comes north and hits 172nd — that whole area is just totally slammed and overwhelmed right now,” said North Marysville resident Ron Friesen. “I mean, even in the middle of the day — we’re not talking just commute hours. It’s just a mess.”

During a presentation for the Arlington City Council Monday night, Chris Damitio, assistant regional administrator for the state Department of Transportation said the timeline for the widening project set out in the 2015 Connecting Washington package remains unchanged. It shows construction starting in 2023.

“A common question has always been ‘well, we know that the department has a project, can’t you build (it) now?’” Damitio said. “And, as I said earlier, the Legislature was very prescriptive in how they allocated these funds and it’s just — we can’t get in there any earlier than what we’re doing right now.”

When work begins, the Department of Transportation will widen a two-mile stretch of Highway 531 from 43rd Avenue NE to 67th Avenue NE. Roundabouts are planned at 43rd, 51st, 59th and 67th avenues northeast.

Amazon intends to build the roundabout at 43rd Avenue NE so its delivery vehicles and employees have an access point while the highway is being widened, said James Kelly, the city’s director of public works.

Meanwhile, the city is working with the state to ensure the widening project will meet the goals of Arlington’s Complete Streets Program, including sidewalks and bus turnouts, Kelly said.

The city has planned several projects to supplement pedestrian and transit access along the state highway as well.

In January, the city will begin working with Community Transit to develop the Swift Gold Line, running from the Smokey Point transfer station to the Everett transfer facility.

The city is also starting to plan for improvements to the Smokey Point Boulevard corridor — currently a two-lane road with sparse bus access and no sidewalks.

NorthPoint, a nine-building light-industrial development just south of Arlington Municipal Airport, bordered by 51st Avenue NE, 172nd Street NE and a railroad line, is expected to bring up to 5,000 jobs to the community. Across the street, the new Amazon fulfillment center is slated to create about 1,000 jobs.

Businesses coming to the Cascade Industrial Center are expected to generate more than 10,000 daily trips along Highway 531 and adjacent roads.

“We’ve had traffic increasing so much and with the development of the Cascade Industrial Center we’re getting more and more large vehicles on the road and we have to be able to provide for their movement,” Kelly said.

In a March 19 memo, traffic consultants wrote that the Cascade Industrial Center is estimated to be 65% occupied by 2030, and thousands of trips will be made during peak hours.

Work to mitigate the increased strain on these roads will begin with NorthPoint developers — adding a third lane to 51st Avenue, and converting 152nd Street into a five lane road. Traffic lights will be added to the intersections that serve as public access to the businesses, including 160th Street Northeast at 51st Avenue NE and 152nd Street NE at 59th Avenue NE. Bike lanes and sidewalks will also be added to 51st.

While developers work on traffic mitigation in front of the businesses, the city of Marysville will convert the 156th Street NE overpass into an I-5 interchange. Work on this project, fully funded through the Connecting Washington program, is slated to begin in 2025.

These road improvements will roll out over the next 10 years, Marysville City Engineer Jeff Laycocksaid in a July interview with the Daily Herald.

In the meantime, the state transportation department will begin applying for permits, as well as finalizing the stormwater design and locations of lanes and roundabouts for the Highway 531 widening project, Damitio said.

“The city is working to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to support these developments,” Kelly said, “while at the same time causing the least impact to residents and visitors.”

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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