Snohomish County expected to grow 25 percent by 2035

MARYSVILLE — North Snohomish County’s crowded roads could get even more congested in the coming years as the area attracts new jobs and people. Areas to the south are largely built out, while Arlington, Marysville and other nearby communities still have large swaths of land open for home builders and businesses looking to expand.

That was the picture local officials painted at a Washington State Transportation Commission meeting in Marysville on Wednesday. A few times each year, commissioners hold regional meetings to get input that they relay to the Legislature and consider when updating the state’s long-term transportation plan.

Snohomish County is expected to add about 200,000 people by 2035, a nearly 25 percent increase, according to state forecasts.

Jobs are expected to grow at a similar rate, said Patrick Pierce, head of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Absorbing that growth presents challenges “we’re happy and fortunate to have.”

Much of the anticipated growth in aerospace and advanced manufacturing is likely to happen in Arlington and Marysville, which have more than 1,200 acres of open land zoned for industrial use. The area already is home to nearly 7,000 manufacturing jobs and could support more than twice that, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring told the commission.

Local officials in the area are doing what they can to entice businesses looking to expand or relocate by offering property tax exemptions and streamlining permitting, Nehring said.

When it comes to roads, rails and other ways of moving goods and people, smart planning spurs economic development, he said.

Improvements are being made. For example, in 2014, Marysville voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for more sidewalks and road maintenance. It raises about $1.8 million a year. Last year, the Legislature included a new interchange with I-5 and Highway 529 at the city’s south end. The project is estimated to cost up to $45 million.

Nehring and other officials highlighted the trouble spots in the north end of the county’s transportation network. Much of the focus was on congestion from commuting.

While average commute times are high across Snohomish County, workers in the county’s north end endure longer travel times than their neighbors to the south, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

In 2014, workers living in Arlington and Marysville took an average of 30 minutes to get to work, and 22 percent had commutes 45 minutes or longer. For comparison, workers living in Everett have an average commute of 26 minutes, and 18 percent have trips lasting 45 minutes or longer.

Officials pointed to bottlenecks on I-5, Highway 9, and the U.S. 2 trestle between Everett and Lake Stevens, among others.

Replacing the trestle won’t be quick or cheap, said Ryan Sass, Everett’s city engineer.

While the structure might last until 2045 under ideal conditions, replacing it could be a 20-year endeavor, given the amount of planning, environmental mitigation and public input required, he said.

“It’s not something way out in the future. It’s something we have to be preparing for now,” he said.

Replacing the trestle is on the state Department of Transportation list of unfunded projects — as a “low” priority.

There are pressing needs in Snohomish County and across the state, said Jerry Litt, chairman of the state Transportation Commission.

“We all know we’re short of money.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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