Marysville drivers know the drill.
Getting to and from I-5 runs the risk of being stuck behind a closed railroad crossing that runs north and south, just east of the freeway.
But there aren’t many convenient alternatives. All of the 16 rail line and road intersections are at-grade crossings in the city, plus seven more at private roads.
Trains rolling through can halt traffic. That can delay travelers, deliveries and emergency responders. And such delays could become more frequent in the coming years, as the number of trains coming through are expected to double.
“It cuts our city in half,” Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring said.
Some circumvention, and perhaps unification, is ahead.
Marysville is set to get $5.5 million to put toward two railroad overcrossing projects in the Legislature’s $17 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation package.
Another $30.5 million in the revenue and spending plan covers the funding gap for the I-5 northbound HOV lane from Everett to Marysville and Highway 529 interchange makeover.
“We’re thrilled,” Nehring said. “We had some very critical projects funded through Move Ahead.”
Marysville leaders and engineering staff view the city as having central, north and south major access points over the railroad to I-5. Grove Street is the central access, 156th Street NE for the north, and the First Street Bypass finished in late 2020 to the south.
Grove Street’s rail crossing is likely to be done first. The transportation package includes $5 million for it in the state’s current two-year spending plan.
An early estimate, which could change as bids come in, is near $24 million for the whole project. City leaders hope other federal and state grants can pay for it.
The state’s $5 million gets the project “shovel ready,” Nehring said. It’ll go toward finishing the design, acquiring property and matching dollars for federal grant applications.
In response to a Facebook post by The Daily Herald asking about the state-funded projects, people said they wanted separated rail crossings at Fourth and 88th streets. There’s good reason they would.
A 2017 legislative report created a priority list of 302 rail crossings across the state. Marysville had three in the top 50 — 88th Street NE (ranked ninth overall), Fourth Street NE (18th), and 116th Street NE (31st).
None of those were in the state’s 16-year transportation package or the city’s annual six-year transportation improvement plan. That’s because building overcrossings at Fourth and 88th Streets NE is more complicated than at 156th Street NE or Grove Street.
State Avenue, the city’s major north-south road, is too close to the train tracks at 88th Street NE. Existing buildings there and near Fourth Street NE make property acquisition more difficult and construction more disruptive, city spokesperson Connie Mennie said.
Nehring said a separated crossing for 88th Street NE is “a really expensive project that we would like to see funded.” But the cost and the city’s tendency to focus on two or three projects at a time means Marysville’s attention is on Grove Street and 156th Street NE for now.
Grove Street was the “most suitable” for an overpass bridge, according to a 2015 study by the city. The state’s list ranked it 123rd.
It would be about 67 feet wide and 120 feet long over the tracks between Cedar and State avenues. Compared to other locations, it would have the least impact on nearby properties and most distance from major roads, Mennie said.
Completion likely is beyond the city’s initial timeline of 2027 because the project wasn’t fully funded, Mennie said.
For north Marysville travelers, the 156th Street railroad overcrossing west of I-5 will take longer. The state’s $500,000 plus $500,000 from the city will get the flyover crossing from the planned freeway interchange to 30% design. Construction of that overcrossing is estimated at $22 million, according to the city.
Work on the $42 million interchange, funded by the Legislature’s previous Connecting Washington transportation package, is expected to begin between 2025 and 2031.
Marysville leaders hope the second overcrossing there improves east-west traffic, especially for people in the Lakewood area.
The state’s Highway 529 project will build new ramps connecting it to I-5. Those would let drivers avoid the rail crossing at Fourth Street.
Community Transit also got $10 million for its Swift bus rapid transit Gold line between Everett and Smokey Point. The frequent service has riders pay before boarding and could launch as early as 2027.
It could help people commute to and from the burgeoning Cascade Industrial Center along Highway 531 between Arlington and Marysville.
“If you’re going to have a job space up there,” Nehring said, “having a way to get people in and out of there is critical.”
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